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Green light for Canadiens sale to Molson

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LAVAL, Quebec (AP) -- The sale of the Montreal Canadiens to a group led by the Molson family is going ahead.

Geoff Molson said on Thursday that only details need to be ironed out and the deal should be completed in the next few weeks, subject to approval by the NHL.

The structure of the ownership group was completed when the Quebec government approved a $69 million loan it had offered to any Quebec-based individual or group that purchased the franchise from American owner George Gillett.

The ownership group includes Geoff Molson and his two brothers as well as Bell Canada; the Woodbridge Company; the Quebec Labour Federation solidarity fund; Michael Andlauer, the owner of Montreal's AHL affiliate; and Luc Bertrand, the former deputy chief of the TMX group. Two-thirds of the partners are based in Quebec.

Molson said it was a private transaction and would not divulge what percentage of the team each group member holds.

As well as Gillett's majority stake, the group also will buy the 19.9 percent held by the Molson-Coors brewery, which will stay on as a sponsor.

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Molson said team president Pierre Boivin and general manager Bob Gainey would remain in their jobs.

Gillett, who has owned the team since 2001, agreed to sell the club in June. He was choked with emotion as he and Geoff Molson met with reporters at the team's annual golf tournament at the Laval-Sur-Le-Lac club

"These things take time," he said. "There was never a moment in our discussions when either of us felt we weren't going to accomplish the goal that the Molson family would be our successor as owner of the team."

He also apologized to the fans for the team's failure to win a Stanley Cup during his eight years as owner.

It is the fourth time that members of the Molson family will own the team since the 1950s.

"It's a fantastic opportunity to continue the tradition we've always had of being great fans and owners of the Montreal Canadiens and we can't wait to embark on this opportunity," Molson said.