Things are getting pretty heated between Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk and Jim Balsillie.
Recently, Balsillie was rejected as a potential owner of the Phoenix Coyotes by the league’s governors because he was deemed to be lacking “good character and integrity.” Jim responded by suggesting in a document filed to the bankruptcy court that “the NHL has long tolerated indicted and even convicted criminals among its ranks.”
The Melnyk and Balsillie trouble started when Balsillie singled out Melnyk, who was fined $1-million for alleged violations of the Canadian Securities Act and ordered to step down as director of his company, Biovail, for one year. Sound familiar?
Both Mr. Melnyk and NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly fired back at Mr. Balsillie. “I have watched with some dismay Jim Balsillie’s fall from being a deserving business icon to what now appears to be a desperate man willing to say anything or do anything to buy an NHL franchise,” Mr. Melnyk said in a release.
“In a recent legal filing, he dragged me into his hurricane of legal filings and panicked pleas and cited me as someone who is lacking the personal integrity to own the Ottawa Senators hockey franchise. I’ve tried to reach Jim through his office to find out why he would say something like this about me — we barely know each other– but I’ve received no response.”
“I will say in response publicly that his willingness to drag down anyone he can get his hands on along with him is discouraging and saddens me. Jim and I both found great success in our Canadian businesses. And that is where the comparisons stop.”
Balsillie also took aim at Bruce McNall, owner of the LA Kings, who was sentenced to almost six years in prison for defrauding several banks of more than US$236-million.
While it may be a good strategy to point out the inconsistencies in what the NHL is saying, it’s my personal opinion that Balsillie should have simply focused on the good he does, rather than the bad things others have done. Balsillie has a plethora of ventures that are indicative of a businessman with character and who invests in the country and institutions that brought him success. Here are just a few from his Wiki:
- In 2000, Balsillie provided $10 million of personal funds towards the founding of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, adding to the $100 million already contributed by fellow RIM executive Mike Lazaridis.
- In 2002, Balsillie founded the Centre for International Governance Innovation with $30 million of personal funds.
- In 2007, Balsillie donated $50 million to the University of Waterloo, Wilfrid Laurier University and the Centre for International Governance Innovation as part of a $100 million initiative to create the Balsillie School of International Affairs.
Sure, Balsillie has made some aggressive business moves and does leverage the media to get what he wants, but none of this suggests a man who lacks character.