The Neko Sparks Group Bid to Purchase the Ottawa Senators Analyzed

The Neko Sparks Group seems to headline the Just for Laughs comedy that is the purchase of the Ottawa Senators. Just for fodder, they recently added Canadian comedian Russell Peters to their group. If nothing else, this group seems motivated and determined to do what it takes to purchase the NHL’s Ottawa Senators. They have attracted big-name celebrities, strong Canadian representation, and wealthy business backers. In the end, it may turn out that they have some persuading to do. They need to convince the Ottawa sellers that from a fan base perspective, they are suitable, knowledgeable, and genuine.

The Potential New Ottawa Senators Owners the Neko Sparks Group

The group has the financial backing of a pair of wealthy British Businessmen. They are David and Simon Reuben. The brothers were born in India near Mumbai, in 1941 and 1944, respectively. Throughout their prosperous careers, they have had various ventures, including metal commodity trading, and real estate. During their metal exploits in Russia, they developed ties with the Mafia. Fast-forward to today their major endeavour is the Reuben Brothers Company. Nowadays, they are primarily involved in real estate.  According to the Sunday Times Rich List, as of May 2020, they were the second richest family in the UK, worth 16 Billion pounds.

The Supporting Cast in the Neko Sparks Senators Ownership Consortium

The fact that they have the Reuben Brothers on board shows that they have power and influence. In total, they have accumulated a list of up to 19 names of high-profile figures. Those names include the likes of Grant Fuhr, James Neal, Georges Laraque, and Trevor Daley. It could be noted that it is not necessarily a strong connection to Ottawa. However, it does show a solid collection of Canadian hockey supporters. Not to be overlooked in that discussion is the addition of the cast of Dragon’s Den. Naturally, being a Canadian Investment television show, they would have ties to hockey. Consider also that one of the Dragons, Jim Treliving, is the father of the recently relieved of his GM duties, Brad Treliving. If the names themselves were not a storyline enough that could only add to the prestige of the group as a whole.

A Bid That Doesn’t Add up

Thanks to the Reuben Brother’s backing, their Neko Sparks Group offer was as much as $925 M (all amounts in USD) in the first round of bids. The week of May 15th, when the bids were finalized, the Neko Sparks Group was in the spotlight. Except, they were in the spotlight for the wrong reasons. It was rumoured they did not have evidence of income streams. Although these rumours never did gain much traction, they did begin to raise doubt in on-lookers’ eyes. It made the group seem to lack integrity, along with the random addition of ‘new’ backers, seemingly daily.

Despite their bid having a tonne of star power and some adversity, it has brought discussion along with it. This would ultimately all lead to providing a much-needed boost to the NHL’s marketing and entertainment value as a whole. It’s all about the show. Having the celebrity factor does bring an advantage psychologically, according to Moshe Lander. Celebrities bring their following, so the spotlight and financial benefits can come easily.

The Snoop Factor

We all remember when, not so long ago, rapper Snoop Dogg announced his desire to partner with the group.  Some can picture Snoop rocking the Penguins jersey in a music video for Gin and Juice from the early 90s. Also, perhaps recall him showing up supporting the Anaheim Ducks in his backyard. Realistically, Snoop does make sense as an NHL owner. He is passionate, enjoys the game, and brings a strong following. However, it does not appear the group as a whole does not seem well suited for a Canadian market. Canada and Ottawa in particular, has a lot of factors to consider. The culture of being in the nation’s capital, the Rideau Canal, and the history of 11 Stanley Cups triumphs. Hockey fans are very critical of the on-ice product. When Donovan Bailey cannot name a single current Sen and his favourite player was “Mike” Spezza, it represents their group poorly.

The Bottom Line

When the pen hits the paper, you need to convince the bank you are stable financially. You must be able to prove to the New York-based banker Galatioto Sports Partners you can foot the $1B bill. You also must provide the Board of Governors in the NHL that you are competent NHL owners. The fact that the Melnyk Daughters, Anna and Olivia, want to retain a 10% share, is a big deal. Eugene Melnyk bought the team for under $100 Million with inflation now to sell for $1B. They are a hockey family, and more importantly a Canadian (Ottawa) hockey family. Assuring them that you have the city’s best interests in mind is no routine task. Therefore, the team belongs in Ottawa, why do they want the thought of a LA-based owner, it just doesn’t make sense.

What Does It All Add up To?

Ultimately the Sparks Group will likely not take sole ownership of the NHL franchise in Ottawa. But they certainly took the crowd for a wild ride. Adding big-name celebrities, and making news stories daily, they did what the NHL lacks, entertainment. They drove people wild adding a new celebrity, they got people talking. Snoop went as far as calling out the commissioner for Dog sake. Reaching out to the First Nations community was a huge contribution to the business of hockey as a whole. Although in LA or Phoenix or Salt Lake City, now there it begins to be a clearer picture.

Main photo by: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports