Jun 3, 2011, 11:42 PM EDT
The NHL seemed like it hit gold (or at least amber?) with its sudsy sponsorship deal with Molson Coors/Miller Coors from earlier this year. The adult beverage giant paid more than $375 million to be the official beer of the NHL in February, making it the largest sponsorship deal in the league’s history.
That sounded like a boozy slam dunk for the NHL, but beer rival Labatt’s wasn’t too happy with that relationship. The company decided to sue the league, claiming that the NHL made a good faith agreement with them to renew their sponsorship with the league until 2014.
(For those of you who enjoy squabbles between huge beer manufacturers, it’s probably relevant to note that Labatt’s is associated with Anheuser-Busch. So one could say that this qualifies as another battle between Budweiser and Coors.)
The Associated Press reports that The Ontario Superior Court agreed with Labatt’s argument in the case today, putting what NHL chief operating officer John Collins called a “monster deal” in serious doubt. We’ll have to wait and see if the league will be forced to scrap that monster deal, just pay some “damages” to Labatt’s or some other alternative, but either way it’s a headache for the NHL.
If you take the Anheuser-Busch/Labatt’s perspective, it seems like they’ll be able to stick with the NHL through the 2013-2014 season.
“We are pleased that Budweiser’s sponsorship of the NHL will continue,” Charlie Angelakos, Labatt’s vice president of corporate affairs, said in a statement. “Budweiser and hockey are a natural fit. We look forward to a very productive relationship with the league through the 2013-14 season and are actively looking for opportunities on a team and grass-roots level to reinforce that connection.”
Labatt took on its beer rival in February when it filed a notice of application to the Ontario Superior Court asking the court to toss out the NHL’s new agreement with Coors.
Budweiser is owned by Anheuser-Busch, which is Labatt’s corporate parent. Anheuser-Busch is also the sponsor for 22 of the 24 NHL teams currently based in the United States.
The news comes during hectic period for the NHL. Besides being in the midst of the Stanley Cup finals between Vancouver and Boston, the league is also dealing with the pending sale and relocation of the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg.
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