Bryden paying $600,000 to Senators' creditors

Former Ottawa Senators owner Rod Bryden need only pay $600,000 of nearly $100 million personally owed creditors and investors of the NHL franchise and its arena.

Bryden, who sold the Senators and the Corel Centre to billionaire Eugene Melnyk for a reported $130 million back in May 2003, agreed Monday to an arrangement which allowed him to avoid personal bankruptcy.

His creditors voted to accept the proposal because they likely would have received even less had he declared bankruptcy.

"I'm very relieved," said Bryden, who retained an Ottawa residence and cottage in Mont Tremblant, Que., both of which he sold to his wife in 2002.

"All of them, including those who voted no, stayed around to wish me well when the meeting was ended."

Once sold to Melnyk, the total debt load carried by the Senators and Corel Centre was estimated at $50 million, substantially less than the $400 million owed previously.

The "performance of the business was actually substantially better than we had forecast," Bryden said. "But players' salaries and the Canadian dollar just blew that all away. It turned out to be just a dreadful period for a Canadian company that relied on Canadian revenues and had to pay export (U.S.) dollars."

Bryden figured that he would still own the Senators had Enron Corp. not collapsed and dragged Covanta Energy Corp., a primary lender for the Corel Centre, down with it.

Covanta had to seek bankruptcy protection and that, Bryden figured, eventually forced the Senators into insolvency too.

Bryden further added that, even after selling the team and its arena to Melnyk, he still faced the prospect of repaying loans from private investors who bankrolled him during his tenure as majority owner.

Asked if he regretted buying the Senators in the first place, Bryden responded: "If I had been able to see a 162-cent dollar and the rate of escalation of players' salaries that, in fact, occurred in that decade, then I certainly would not have done that."

According to Canadian Press, documents indicate that less than half of the $600,000 is earmarked for "secured" creditors like CIBC and Boston-based Fleet National Bank.

About $310,000 will be dedicated to paying "unsecured" creditors, including the estate of Harrison McCain, who died in March.

McCain, a Canadian frozen food magnate, was owed $5 million.

Among the other unsecured creditors are original Senators owner Bruce Firestone, owed $800,000, as well as his children, owed $101,000.

with files from CP Online