Canucks and Beyond

Who Owns the Vancouver Canucks?

01/10/2008 at 1:51pm EST

Update 11:23am PT: Judge has ruled that Aquilini doesn’t have to share his hockey team. More details at bottom of post.


Here’s a round-up of the issues behind a major lawsuit being decided in Vancouver today. Nearly eight months since testimony began in this trial, a judge will finally be addressing the question: Who owns the Canucks?

From Bob Mackin at 24 Hours Vancouver,

Will B.C. Supreme Court order Francesco Aquilini to relinquish ownership of the Vancouver Canucks and General Motors Place today?

Or will his family proceed with plans to build an office tower next to the Garage and cash more VANOC cheques?

We’ll find out this morning when Justice Catherine Wedge delivers the verdict from last year’s blockbuster court battle.

Here’s what the pundits of the press box have to say…


First, a quick-and-dirty Dummies Guide to the Canucks Ownership Saga:

  • The current majority owner of the Canucks is Francesco Aquilini.
  • Francesco Aquilini is being sued by his original partners in his 2003 bid to purchase the Canucks.
  • Aquilini’s original partners were Tom Gaglardi and Ryan Beedie who were ultimately left out of the deal made with previous majority owner John McCaw.

Here’s Ed Willes of The Province with his explanation of the issues:

In November of 2003, the height of the Brian Burke era if you can remember that far back, Aquilini is alleged to have entered into a partnership with Beedie and Gaglardi to buy the Canucks from then owner John McCaw. Former Orca Bay chief executive officer Stan McCammon negotiated the deal on behalf of McCaw. Aquilini then left Gaglardi and Beedie in March of 2004 and the latter two continued to negotiate with McCammon through the next eight months.

In late-October/early-November of that year, they believed they were in the process of closing the deal when McCaw/McCammon suddenly ended negotiations. A few days later they sold half of Orca Bay - i.e. the Canucks and GM Place - to Aquilini which prompted the lawsuit from Gaglardi and Beedie and over three years later, here we are.

For a very thorough understanding of the issues and timelines in this case, Ian Mulgrew at the Vancouver Sun published this and this yesterday and today (exceptionally detailed feature series), for anyone who’s interested.

Now, here are the possible outcomes of the judge’s ruling today, and according to Willes, it’s unlikely to be the end of the affair:

Wedge could come down on the side of the plaintiffs, Ryan Beedie and Tom Gaglardi, which would certainly result in an appeal from current Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini, one of the defendants.

Or Wedge could rule for Aquilini and Beedie and Gaglardi could launch their own appeal.

Or her judgment might result in a mixed bag - say, damages for Beedie and Gaglardi; the team for Aquilini - which neither side finds to their liking and further appeals would follow.

So, if you like your justice well-defined with an easily identifiable cast of heroes and villains fighting over a precise legal point, then you’ve come to the wrong place.

It’s a good bet that Justice Wedge—once a Canadian Olympian equestrian—didn’t have much of a holiday last month working through her decision on this huge case. I suppose today we’ll find out who pays the price for wrecking her Christmas vacation.

But while there’s no doubt that a lot of very rich people have much to lose or gain today, it’s also unlikely to be the end of the matter. However, there are serious business ethics and legal issues that arise out of this whole mess, and hopefully the ruling today takes the case a step closer to resolution.

Incidentally, one thing that no one seems to write about is how this all will affect the fans—the consumers of the product who have made it so valuable. One way or another, it’s safe to say those fans are also going to pay for this affair, no matter what decisions are made in BC Supreme Court today.

After all, somebody has to pay for all those legal fees.

Update 11:23am PT: From TSN,

The B.C. Supreme Court has ruled Francesco Aquilini still owns the Vancouver Canucks National Hockey League franchise outright.

Justice Catherine Wedge has ruled there was no partnership or joint venture between Aquilini, Tom Gaglardi and Ryan Beedie.

Wedge wrote in her ruling released today that even if there was a partnership, it ended in March 2004.

Wedge ruled Aquilini owed no ethical duty to Gaglardi and Beedie to refrain from competing with them for the opportunity to buy the hockey team.

The three millionaires fought a bitter five-month trial over the partnership in which Gaglardi and Beedie claimed their former partner went behind their backs to buy half the team for $250 million.

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