Seattle's incoming NHL expansion franchise has added Montreal native Mitch Garber as a minority investor in both the team and a soon-to-be remodeled KeyArena. Garber, a lifelong sports fan, has worked the past decade as an executive in companies owned by Seattle NHL team managing partner David Bonderman.
A prominent Canadian lawyer-turned-businessman trying to bring the Expos back to Montreal has signed on as a minority investor with an incoming Seattle NHL team.
A hockey source confirmed that Mitch Garber, 54, a chairman and a co-investor in the Montreal-based Cirque du Soleil entertainment company owned by the Seattle team’s managing partner David Bonderman, will be a minority stakeholder in both the NHL franchise and KeyArena. Garber is one of the lead figures, along with Seagram Co. liquor empire heir Stephen Bronfman, trying to revive the Expos — a move that could impact the Pacific Northwest given Major League Baseball is expected to also consider putting a new franchise in Portland as a pairing with any Montreal club.
Members of the NHL Seattle group had no immediate comment.
Garber could not be reached for comment on his reasons for joining the Seattle franchise, though he and Bonderman have done a spate of business deals together the past decade. In 2009, Garber became CEO and the first private investor of Caesars Interactive Entertainment (CIE), a newly created digital gaming and entertainment business whose parent company was owned by Bonderman’s TPG investment firm.
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While at CIE, which owns the World Series of Poker and other entities, Garber also founded the Playtika social gaming company, which he later sold for $4.4 billion to Chinese mogul Jack Ma. Garber, who earned a onetime $210 million payout in stock options and bonuses when he left Caesar’s in 2016, had become chairman of Cirque du Soleil in 2015 after the company was purchased by Bonderman’s firm and other investors.
In his 1990s years as a prominent Montreal sports lawyer and radio host, Garber and his partner, Morden Lazarus, assisted entrepreneur Jim Speros in relocating a Canadian Football League franchise from Baltimore to Montreal and renaming it after an Alouettes team bearing that name that had folded nine years earlier.
His current partner in reviving the Expos, Bronfman, is the son of the MLB team’s original billionaire owner. Bronfman attempted to purchase the Montreal Canadiens NHL franchise in 2009 before the team was sold for $500 million to members of its prior Molson family owners.
Garber’s expertise in online gaming could help Seattle’s incoming hockey franchise and the league with ideas on how to best leverage future revenues from sports gambling. A lifelong, rabid baseball fan, Garber’s new involvement with the NHL and some of its sports power brokers could also help with his separate quest to revive MLB in his hometown.