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LABATT FACES UNSOLICITED BUYOUT OFFER FROM ONEX CORP.
Published May 19, 1995
Onex Corp., a Canadian investment firm and Quilmes Industrial S.A., Argentina's largest brewer, "fired the first shot" for John Labatt Ltd. yesterday by offering C$2.3B for the beer and entertainment conglomerate. Onex Chair Gerald Schwartz "suggested he was prepared to raise his debt-propelled offer if he finds Labatt is worth more." Labatt, which controls close to 45% of Canada's domestic beer market, also owns European breweries as well as up to C$1B-worth of sports and entertainment properties, including the Blue Jays, CFL Argonauts, SkyDome, and The Sports Network (Marina Strauss, Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 5/19). NO GO?: Labatt President George Taylor has dismissed the initial offer. Taylor: "This is a wholly inadequate proposal and does not reflect fair value to our shareholder." Industry analysts and market watchers said the bid "will have to be higher" for a deal to be made. David Cohen, an analyst with Research Capital Corp., said the offer was "a little light relative to what people expected relative to the value of Labatt's assets." Labatt's Board of Directors will meet today to discuss the bid (Art Chamberlain, TORONTO STAR, 5/19). WITHER THE JAYS: Schwartz said he wanted to return Labatt to its roots as a brewer and eventually sell its non-brewing assets to pay for a leveraged buyout (Bertrand Morotte, CALGARY HERALD, 5/19). But he also said Labatt's interest in the Blue Jays might remain. Schwartz: "[Baseball] is a business I don't understand, and I would want to get advice from (Blue Jays President) Paul Beeston. ... Obviously the Blue Jays are a great marketing vehicle for Labatt" (John Saundes, Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 5/19). According to Bill Lankohf of the TORONTO SUN, potential suitors for the team include: Canwest Global; cable TV mogul and Sun owner Ted Rogers; and the Bassett family, owners of CFTO and Baton Broadcasting (TORONTO SUN, 5/19). TSN HOT? One business executive: "The hot property is TSN. Lots of people would like to buy into that. I think you'll see (Schwartz) lump some things like the Argos and Blue Jays with TSN and try to sell it as a package" (TORONTO SUN, 5/19). In Toronto, Rob Longley writes that TSN's "profit picture has never been rosier and therefore the network and its holdings ... have never been more ripe for a sale." If TSN is sold, Longley writes that possible buyers include Molson, which last year was unsuccessful in a bid for a regional sports network, and Canwest Global, which is "becoming a bigger force in the broadcast industry" (TORONTO SUN, 5/19). Other possible buyers include Astral Communications of Montreal, Alliance Communications of Toronto, Telemedia of Montreal, Western International Communications of Vancouver, Baton Broadcasting of Toronto, CanWest Global Communications of Winnipeg, and News Corp.'s Twentieth Century Fox. One analyst pegs the value of Labatt's broadcasting assets and TSN "at roughly $600 million" (Harvey Enchin, TORONTO GLOBE & MAIL, 5/19).