CTV exclusive: Union-led consortium offering to buy LCBO for $11B
A consortium led by Ontario’s largest union is offering to buy a majority stake in the LCBO for $11 billion, CTV News has learned.
The Ontario Public Service Employees Union teamed up with Onex Corporation -- one of Canada’s most powerful companies -- to make the multi-billion dollar bid to buy 75 per cent interest in the liquor store monopoly.
A presentation to the government obtained by CTV News stated that “an OPSEU-led deal” would be fully supported by labour and backed by public pension funds, and would ensure ownership and control by working Canadians. The LCBO pulls in $1.75 billion in profit to Ontario each year.
The proposal was first presented to the government in Nov. 2011. It was also discussed just before the 2014 provincial election in June, and as recently as the past few months.
OPSEU President Smokey Thomas said he doesn’t want Ontario to sell the LCBO, but should the province do so, it should remain a Canadian company. Thomas also confirmed that Onex Corp. and its CEO, Gerry Schwartz, were private partners in the union-led, buy-out proposal.
“That was them, that was their idea,” Thomas told CTV’s Paul Bliss. “I don’t discount anything they are saying. I have done a lot of research on them.”
If the proposal was accepted:
- Ontario government would receive $11 billion cash up front in exchange for 75 per cent ownership in the LCBO
- $9 billion would come from a syndicate of 4 Canadian banks
- $2 billion from an investor group, including Onex, OPSEU pension and other Canadian pension plans
- Ontario would retain 25 per cent ownership, guaranteeing it at least $500 million each year in royalties
- The majority of shares in the new private company would be held by OPSEU and the pensions
Under the plan, the Ontario government would continue to control and regulate the sale of alcohol.
It appears Premier Kathleen Wynne put the brakes on the union proposal that the government sole-source the sale.
Wynne instructed Tom Teahen, her chief of staff, to send a letter to Thomas that stated, “If re-elected, Premier Kathleen Wynne will not be moving ahead with your proposal to sole-source sell LCBO to OPSEU’s pension plan and its private sector partner.”
However, that still leaves the door open to a bidding process.
Thomas suggests the plan isn’t dead yet, saying he has urged Wynne and cabinet minister Deb Matthews to sell “to Canadians” if the government does eventually offload the LCBO.
The premier’s office won’t comment directly on the OPSEU-led proposal, but says it is looking at ways “to improve the efficiency and optimize the full value of several key government assets, including the LCBO.”
Repeated calls to Onex Corp. for comment were not immediately returned.