Canadian businessman , philanthropist, and owner, governor, and chairman of the National Hockey League (NHL)’s Ottawa Senators and AHL’s Belleville Senators Eugene Melnyk passed away on the 28th of March. He was the founder, chairman, and CEO of Biovail Corporation, once Canada’s largest publicly traded pharmaceutical company with more than C$1-billion in annual revenue. He sold almost all of his holdings of the company by 2010. Canadian Business magazine ranked Melnyk 79th on its 2017 list of Canada’s 100 wealthiest people, with a net worth of $1.21 billion.
Melnyk was born in Toronto, Ontario, on May 27, 1959, the son of Ferdinand and Verna Melnyk, who were both born in Ukraine. He was a Canadian citizen and also a long time resident of Barbados, where he sent up residence to avoid the heavy taxes in his home country. In 1982, Melnyk founded medical publishing company Trimel Corporation, which was sold to Thomson Publications (part of the Thomson Corporation) in 1989. In 1989, Melnyk founded Biovail Corporation, a specialty pharmaceutical company. During his time as chairman and CEO of Biovail, revenues grew from $19 million in 1995 to $1.067 billion in 2006. One of Biovail’s strategies was to look for drugs with expired patents, then reinvent them with the company’s proprietary technologies.
Melnyk’s first foray into sports franchise ownership came in 2001 with the purchase of the St. Michael’s Majors of the Ontario Hockey League. At the time, the club played at the St. Michael’s College School’s Arena in Toronto, but Melnyk aimed to move the team to nearby Mississauga. As there was already an OHL team in Mississauga, the Mississauga IceDogs, Melnyk subsequently purchased the IceDogs franchise in 2006 and resold them in 2007 in order to facilitate the move of the Majors from Toronto to Mississauga. Per the deal arranged by Melnyk, the IceDogs’ new ownership relocated the team to St. Catharines, Ontario and the team became known as the Niagara IceDogs. On May 10, 2012, Melnyk sold the St. Michael’s Majors (now called the Mississauga Steelheads) to Elliott Kerr for an undisclosed price.
On August 26, 2003, Melnyk purchased the Ottawa Senators NHL franchise along with their arena, then known as the Corel Centre. At that time the team was facing bankruptcy and an uncertain future in Ottawa, and was purchased for the sum of US$92 million. In December, 2020, the Ottawa Senators were listed by Forbes magazine as the NHL’s twenty-sixth highest valued franchise at US$450 million. His realationship with the Senators fanbase has been testy of late as some fans in Ottawa had gradually become disillusioned with Melnyk’s management style and perceived unwillingness to spend the money needed to build a championship-caliber team. This came after the Senators fell just one overtime goal shy of reaching the 2017 Stanley Cup Finals.
Melnyk was hospitalized for end-stage liver failure and had a liver transplant in May 2015 after a public appeal for a live liver donor found an anonymous donor. He died on March 28, 2022, due to an undisclosed illness at the age of 62.