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Sparks group adds Dragons' Den investors as Senators fans await ownership decision


As Ottawa Senators fans anxiously wait to find out who will own their hockey team, one of the bidders is continuing to add new investors to their lineup.

A group led by L.A. entrepreneur Neko Sparks has added several stars from the CBC show Dragons' Den to its roster of investors. Arlene Dickinson, Robert Herjavec, Wes Hall, and Manjit and Ravinder Minhas are all joining the bid, according to a news release issued Monday evening.

The Sparks group is one of four who submitted final bids for the team by last Monday's deadline. If the group is If that group is successful, it would be the NHL's first Black-led ownership group.

"I love everything about the game, but I just didn’t see too many people that look like me playing the game," Hall, who was born in Jamaica and moved to Toronto as a teen, told CTV News in an interview. "Now I have an opportunity to change that. So that excites me, and that’s one of the main reasons why I decided to back Neko and do this deal."

Postmedia has reported that three of the bids came from Toronto-area businessmen: Michael Andlauer, who owns a minority stake in the Montreal Canadiens; Jeffrey and Michael Kimel, who were formerly involved with the Pittsburgh Penguins and whose bid reportedly includes Canadian singer-songwriter The Weeknd; and Steve Apostolopoulos, who recently submitted an unsuccessful $6-billion bid to own the NFL's Washington Commanders. 

The ever-growing Sparks group has been the most vocal, with Canadian names being added to the roster even after the bidding deadline.

On Saturday, comedian Russell Peters announced he had joined up with the bid. The day before, Olympic gold medallist Donovan Bailey said he was part of the group. The group is also in discussions with Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg First Nation.

Hall also suggested the Sparks group would plan to build a downtown arena for the Senators.

"Ottawa should not be closed down when Parliament is out of session or after 5 o'clock when folks go home," he said. "It should be a vibrant, thriving city, and that’s what we’re going to be able to bring to the city. We’re going to bring an arena and all the infrastructure surrounding that atmosphere to make the city a thriving metropolis."

The news release also said that TAAG, an Ottawa firm, has created a Special Purpose Vehicle for Canadian investors to participate in Sparks' bid.

A.J. Perez, senior reporter for Front Office Sports tells CTV News Ottawa that the groups bidding on the Senators are still engaged but at least one is putting financing together to either increase their bid or shore up what they have.

"investors Sparks has brought in, we’re still trying to figure out where the big money is. I know these are a lot of wealthy people but we’re talking about a roughly billion dollar sale, so the first thing – as a person who covers a lot of these sales – is where is the money coming from?" Perez said. "There seems to be the other groups have a little more verifiable capital than Sparks does."

Concordia University's Moshe Lander says the extra partners Sparks is announcing could be a sign he is having trouble keeping up.

"My first thought when I saw the news this morning is that maybe this bid is having a difficult time coming up with the financing to support the bid they put in," Lander said. "To me this an issue that I’m now concerned this group does not have their funding together. Let’s remember none of these people are going to be involved in hockey operations."

Other sports franchises have several minority stake owners, but Lander says there's more to consider beyond the number of people involved.

"To me, the concern is why are you bringing them on now when everything should have been decided? That’s to me the thing that makes me question whether this would work, not that there’s this many people."

Perez echoed a similar sentiment.

"The Washington Commanders are going to have potentially up to 17 limited partners, Sparks doesn’t have that many yet. It’s kind of more who’s the capital?" Perez said.

The Senators went up for sale following the death of Eugene Melnyk, who passed ownership onto his daughters Anna and Olivia Melnyk. Forbes recently valued the Senators at $800 million USD.

It's unclear when the successful bid will be announced.

- with files from Colton Praill, CTV News Ottawa Top Stories

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