Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk issued a statement on Friday in response to a pair of Ottawa Sun stories about Melnyk’s involvement with the Sens Foundation and Organ Project charities.
The Sun issued a correction and apology earlier in the day.
Melnyk’s statement discussed his role with the Foundation, rental charges, and Organ Project operations.
“In his June 5 column, [Rick] Gibbons claimed that Melnyk was exercising improper influence over the Senators Foundation to ‘divert’ charitable dollars raised in Ottawa to his Toronto-based charity for his own benefit. As well, Gibbons wrote that Melnyk views the charitable organization, which has a licensing agreement with the Ottawa Senators hockey club, ‘as an extension of the business as opposed to a quasi-independent entity with its own mandate and charter.’ This is patently false. Gibbons based this assertion on information provided by anonymous sources and reported it as fact. Although Gibbons apparently sought comments from the Foundation’s management and board, he made no effort to contact the Senators or Melnyk prior to publishing these claims.”
Melnyk also disputed what the Sun wrote about rent charged to the Sens Foundation.
“At the same time, Gibbons declared he was told that Melnyk charges the foundation ‘hundreds of thousands of dollars annually’ in rent, which hinders the foundation’s charitable giving. This assertion is patently false.”
“The rent charged to the Foundation was $78,750 in 2019, well below market rates for the area.”
“Furthermore, charging rent to the Foundation was a legal requirement for the Senators in order to maintain the independence of the charity. As an independent entity, the Foundation’s licensing relationship with the Senators is different from other sports charities, which are often owned by the teams.”
Earlier this month the Senators said their agreement with the Foundation was set to expire at the end of July and that the team intended to explore alternative options to further its philanthropic endeavours.
Melnyk’s statement also took issue with the June 8 column report about how much money The Organ Project, a not for profit organization Melnyk founded in 2016, had invested in organ donor awareness.
“Mr. Gibbons’ error appears to arise from his mistaken assumption that The Organ Project operated like the Foundation. While the Foundation raises money that it then distributes to various causes, The Organ Project raised funds for it to spend on promoting public awareness of organ donation and encouraging organ donation registration.”
“The $5,000 payment identified by Gibbons was a direct donation by The Organ Project to the Kidney Foundation. While this direct contribution was not something The Organ Project normally did, and was not part of its normal operations or mandate, for Gibbons to erroneously report that this was the only charitable work done by the organization is both patently false, immensely unfair, and ignores all the work done by The Organ Project to raise awareness of its cause.”