Canadiens owner may sell team

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The Montreal Canadiens could be for sale as part of a plan by owner George Gillett to sort out his varied holdings.

"The Gillett family has retained the services of financial advisers to assess various strategic alternatives to optimize the value of its corporate assets," team president Pierre Boivin said in a statement on Monday. "In Canada, the family has retained the services of BMO Capital Markets and the process is under way."

Montreal La Presse reported that BMO will study all financial avenues, including selling the club, financial restructuring or bringing in new investors.

Gillett owns 80.1 percent of the team and the Bell Centre.

He also owns 50 percent of English soccer giant Liverpool, and owns the Gillett Evernham NASCAR team, event promoter Gillett Entertainment Group, ski resorts, car dealerships and agricultural companies.

Boivin told the newspaper that the recession spurred Gillett to hire financial companies in Canada, the United States and Europe to review his holdings.

Last November, BlackBerry maker Jim Balsillie said the Canadiens were for sale, a report vehemently denied by Gillett at the time.

In December, Sports Business Journal reported that Gillett was looking to refinance a $75 million loan he took out to guarantee his involvement in the purchase of Liverpool FC, which he co-owns with Dallas Stars owner Tom Hicks.

Gillett bought the Canadiens and their arena, then called the Molson Centre, in 2001, for $275 million with the help of $140 million in loans from two banks and the Quebec pension fund.

Boivin said the league's oldest franchise is no danger of going out of business.