Report: Neko Sparks' bid to offer equity stake in Senators for First Nations groups

First Nations communities could reportedly receive more than 10% equity in the Senators if the bid led by L.A.-based businessman Neko Sparks wins out.

As the deadline to purchase the NHL's Ottawa Senators looms, Canadian First Nations groups will reportedly get a "seat at the table" if one of the bidding favourites wins out.

Sportsnet's Wayne Scanlan wrote on Monday that "a source involved in the bid says the [Neko] Sparks group has branched off to include First Nations communities in a way that would make them partners in the hockey club as well as a wide range of economic opportunities off the ice."

Scanlan added that it's not exactly known how much equity the First Nations communities could receive if the bid led by the Los Angeles-based business is indeed successful, "but is believed to be more than 10%" and includes stakes in things like technology, entertainment, real estate and other off-ice ventures.

Sparks is hoping to become the NHL's first Black owner while building a diverse front office and culture around the team, making this potential partnership with First Nations communities a seemingly perfect fit.

"This would be really big, to see First Nations get an equity stake in a team in the nation’s capital," Scanlan wrote, citing a source. "It’s significant. I look at this bid, with African Americans and the First Nations people in Canada who have been suppressed for a long period of Canadian history, and a successful bid by this group would be a monumental achievement."

Diversity and inclusion in the front office and in the community appear to be a central feature of Sparks' bid for the Senators. (Getty)
Diversity and inclusion in the front office and in the community appear to be a central feature of Sparks' bid for the Senators. (Getty)

The Senators — which have been on the market since early November when the daughters of late owner Eugene Melnyk put the team up for sale — have attracted several high-profile bids and could end up selling for over $1 billion. If the franchise ended up fetching that amount, it would be the highest price a NHL team has ever sold for. The highest price ever shelled out for an NHL franchise came from Fenway Sports Group, who paid $900 million for the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2021, while Bill Haslam’s purchase of the Nashville Predators will officially come in around $880 million.

Toronto business moguls Michael Andlauer, Steve Apostolopoulos and Jeff and Michael Kimel, as well as several local Ottawa business people, are among those who have expressed interest in buying the hockey club. A-list celebrities are also sprinkled throughout the bidding process, as Canadian-born recording star The Weeknd is part of the Kimel bid, while rapper Snoop Dogg is attached to Sparks's proposal.

Canadian actor Ryan Reynolds, along with The Remington Group, whose bid progressed into one of the frontrunners as the process moved along, pulled out of the process after the group were denied an opportunity to have an exclusive bargaining window with officials in the nation’s capital to try and close the sale.

The deadline for final bids to be submitted is Monday, with news of a sale potentially coming as early as Wednesday, per Scanlan.