Newspaper apologizes to Senators owner Eugene Melnyk

The Senators Foundation announced June 4 that it was cutting ties with the team, but allegations of diverting funds, using undue influence and overcharging rent were 'patently false' according to Senators owner Eugene Melnyk.
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Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk has received and accepted an apology from the Ottawa Sun newspaper for inaccuracies contained in two recent columns that were published on the Ottawa Senators Foundation cutting ties with Capital Sports & Entertainment, which owns the team.

Two columns, written June 5 and 8 by Rick Gibbons, a former publisher of the Sun and a freelance columnist, suggested that Melnyk was using undue influence over the Senators Foundation to divert monies raised in Ottawa to a Toronto-based charity for his own benefit. The foundation announced it was parting ways with the Senators June 4. It was alleged that Melnyk charged the Senators Foundation “hundreds of thousands of dollars annually” in rent, when in fact it was charged $78,500, which is a legal requirement and is well below market value. One column alleged that the high rent hindered the foundation’s ability to help charitable causes, when, in fact, the salaries of the foundation’s employees, something over which neither Melnyk nor the Senators has control, was the primary reason.

“As well, Gibbons wrote that Melnyk views the charitable organization, which has a licensing agreement with the Ottawa Senators hockey club, ‘as an extension of the business as opposed to a quasi-independent entity with its own mandate and charter.’ This is patently false,” Melnyk said in a statement. “Gibbons based this assertion on information provided by anonymous sources and reported it as fact. Although Gibbons apparently sought comments from the foundation’s management and board, he made no effort to contact the Senators or Melnyk prior to publishing these claims.”

In another column, it was reported that the Canada Revenue Agency filing showed that The Organ Project, a private foundation started by Melnyk, invested only $5,000 of the nearly $1 million it raised for organ donor awareness. In fact, the $5,000 donated to The Organ Project was from the Kidney Foundation. Melnyk, in fact, used his own money to start the charity, including a $224,902 debt owed to Melnyk payroll and expense start-up costs that has been forgiven.

“The Sun would like to clarify that it did not intend to suggest that Eugene Melnyk or the Ottawa Senators had exercised improper influence over the Ottawa Senators Foundation or that they had attempted to misdirect, misappropriate or misapply charitable funds of the foundation or The Organ Project,” the correction said. “In addition, the Sun did not contact Eugene Melnyk or the Senators for comment prior to the publication of both columns.”

“The unequivocal public apology by the Sun for the inaccuracies and mistakes it published will not undo the damage to my personal and professional reputation, my charitable work, the hockey club and the stress on my family,” Melnyk said in a statement. “However, the apology is a necessary step to correct the falsehoods and to set the record straight.”

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