Canadiens sale all but complete

The $575-million US sale of the Montreal Canadiens by George Gillett to a group led by the Molson family is expected to be finalized in the next few weeks, the sides announced Thursday.

The sale of the Montreal Canadiens is nearly complete.

Geoff Molson, whose brewing family is buying the team for the third time in its 100-year history, and outgoing owner George Gillett made the announcement Thursday at the Canadiens' annual charity golf tournament in Laval, Que.

The $575-million US deal is expected to be finalized "in a matter of weeks," Molson said. The National Hockey League must then give its approval.

Gillett, who has owned the Canadiens since 2001, agreed to sell the club in June. The sale was held up after U.S. bank CIT, facing possible bankruptcy, reneged on a reported $225-million loan to help the Molson family make the purchase.

The Quebec government later stepped in with a $75-million loan to ensure the deal went through.

The Molson family also had to finalize the structure of the new ownership group, which will include BCE and the Woodbridge Group, who together control CTVGlobemedia. Montreal stock exchange president Luc Bertrand and Hamilton businessman Michael Andlauer are also involved.

Two-thirds of the partners are based in Quebec, and French Canadian businessman Pierre Boivin is staying on as team president.

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 will also buy the 19.9 per cent held by the Molson-Coors brewery, which will stay on as a sponsor.

"We are proud to be the owners, but don't forget we are fans," Geoff Molson said.

"We are children of the Canadiens."

An emotional Gillett called his family's ownership of the team "the best eight years of our lives."

"This is a happy, but very sad day for me to be here," Gillett said.

With files from The Canadian Press