Garry McKay
The Hamilton Spectator

(Sep 15, 2009)

Michael Andlauer was sitting in his hospital bed last April recovering from hip surgery when the phone rang.

It was the Montreal Canadiens calling, wondering if he’d be interested in buying the National Hockey League club since owner George Gillett was thinking of selling. The question was being posed to Andlauer since he already owned the Hamilton Bulldogs, the Habs’ American Hockey League farm team.

“I chuckled and told them, ‘I’m sorry but the NHL is in a completely different league than mine, pun intended,'” said Andlauer, who had just spent a sizable fortune buying back his company, Andlauer Transport-ation Service (ATS), to take it private again. “I was in no position (financially) to look at it and my appetite for leverage wasn’t there. I certainly didn’t think I had the means.”

That wasn’t the end of the story, however. It was just the beginning.

It concluded last Thursday when the 44-year-old Burlington businessman sold half his trucking empire and became part of the consortium that was introduced as the new owners of the Canadiens.

Andlauer said that first phone call was followed up by others as various groups tried to piece together potential ownership groups to buy the Habs.

“That was very flattering that they felt I was obviously able to offer something, having cut my teeth in running a hockey club with the Bulldogs and having run businesses of similar sizes,” Andlauer said. “The more interest I got, the more I thought that maybe I should follow this opportunity. And the more I got involved, the more I realized that this was definitely achievable.”

The downside for Andlauer was having to sell part of his trucking and logistics empire.

“It was a very emotional day for me watching a company that I had started in 1991, a big piece of it going away and being sold,” he said. “But that was obviously part of the liquidity event for me to be able to buy the significant stake in the Canadiens.

“It’s a new chapter in my life.”

Although he’s been a Habs fan since he was a kid growing up in Montreal, Andlauer can’t say owning the team has been a lifelong dream.

“It’s not a business decision per se. Having said that, I’m not looking at cash calls either. I’m putting a significant amount of my wealth in this in passion but there’s more to it than that. To me this is about preserving this iconic asset.”

Andlauer says he will continue to live in Burlington and continue to be the hands-on owner of the Bulldogs.