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Labatt loses legal faceoff with Molson Coors in NHL sponsorship spat

TORONTO - Labatt Breweries of Canada has lost the latest round in its legal faceoff with rival Molson Coors over National Hockey League sponsorship rights.

Labatt disclosed Thursday that it had received confirmation that the Ontario Superior Court of Justice had dismissed its suit against the NHL and Molson Coors.

Charlie Angelakos, Labatt vice-president, corporate affairs, described the company as "surprised and disappointed by this outcome."

The court plans to release the reasons behind its decision at a later date and Labatt said it would review its legal options at that time.

The latest ruling overturns an Ontario Supreme Court decision back in June that would have blocked what has been called the most lucrative sponsorship deal in the league's history.

In his June ruling, Judge Frank Newbould upheld a claim by Labatt that the NHL reneged on a deal it already had in place when it signed the $375-million agreement with Molson Coors Canada (TSX:TPX.B).

Labatt argued that the league's agreement with Molson Coors, described as a "monster deal'' by NHL chief operating officer John Collins when it was unveiled in February, clashed with another between the NHL and Labatt's Budweiser brand.

Not surprisingly Dave Perkins, president and CEO of Moslon Coors Canada, hailed the decision.

"The fog has finally lifted with today's ruling," Perkins said in an email statement. "It's now clear sailing ahead for our deal with the NHL."

Budweiser is owned by Anheuser-Busch, which is Labatt's corporate parent. Anheuser-Busch is also the sponsor for 22 of the 23 NHL teams based in the United States.

The Canadian division of Molson Coors Brewing Co. (NYSE:TAP) is a global brewer with operations in Canada, the U.S., the United Kingdom and Asia. It employees 3,000 people at seven breweries in Canada.

Stock in Molson Coors Canada was up $1.73 or 4.25 per cent at $42.48 Thursday on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

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