Saudi Arabia at the Bell Center

Saudi Arabia at the Bell Center
Saudi Arabia at the Bell Center

Do you feel a little awkward watching World Cup soccer matches in Qatar, a country that oppresses women and where homosexuality is a crime?

This Middle Eastern emirate has spent hundreds of billions of dollars on a sporting event to shine on the world stage. Its neighbor Saudi Arabia is using the same strategy with its petrodollars in an effort to whitewash its reputation and increase its influence.

Here is another malaise: Saudi Arabia has recently carved out a small place for itself at the Bell Centre, in the family of organizers of some of the biggest sporting and cultural events in Quebec.

Our Bureau of Investigation presents you today with a fascinating dossier on Saudi strategy in the world of sport and entertainment.

For example, Saudi Arabia’s national investment fund invested more than US$500 million in Live Nation during the pandemic. This American firm owns almost half of evenko, the events branch of the CH Group.

strong ties

Groupe CH and Live Nation were long-time partners and formalized their union in December 2019 by creating a joint venture controlled by the Molson family. So much so that Live Nation executives Michael Rapino and Wayne Zronik now sit with brothers Geoff and Andrew Molson on evenko’s board of directors.

Just an anecdote? No way.

Who organizes the big shows at the Bell Center as well as some of the most important events in Quebec such as the Montreal Jazz Festival, the Francos and Osheaga, to name a few? Live Nation and the CH Group

And who owns Ticketmaster, the official ticket resale platform of the National League and the Montreal Canadiens? LiveNation.

These financial maneuvers deserve attention, simply because Saudi Arabia is one of the worst countries in the world when it comes to respecting human rights. In the kingdom of Mohammed Ben Salmane, women are second-class human beings, homosexual relations are punishable by imprisonment and numerous cases of torture and barbaric executions have been recorded.

pinch your nose

They say money has no smell. Live Nation and Groupe CH are far from the only ones holding their noses.

Several renowned golfers such as Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson have been seduced by the Saudi dollars of the new LIV circuit, launched in controversy this summer. They find it very pleasant to participate in tournaments where the winner walks away with $4 million and where finishing dead last earns… $120,000.

Not to mention the mountains of Saudi Arabian money swallowed up in . Aramco, the Saudi state oil company, is one of the main sponsors on the single-seater of Quebecer Lance Stroll.

Both the CH Group organization and the Live Nation organization politely declined to answer our questions. It is their prerogative. If our journalist Francois-David Rouleau had obtained an interview with their leaders, he would have asked them if they weren’t at least slightly uneasy about accepting capital from a regime as detestable as Saudi Arabia.

Jean Louis Fortin
Director of the Bureau of Investigation

Do you have any information to share with us about this story?

Got a scoop that might be of interest to our readers?

Write to us at or call us directly at 1 800-63SCOOP.

The article is in French

Tags: Saudi Arabia Bell Center