Whenever they drop the puck at the Corel Centre or wherever the Ottawa Senators are playing, you're likely to find owner Eugene Melnyk nursing a Mount Gay Extra Old rum and club soda at Bert's Bar in Christ Church, Barbados.
A rabid hockey and horse-racing fan, Mr. Melnyk follows the Senators at Bert's, booking satellite space on the Anik F1 C-band, which one television executive says costs an estimated $850 an hour, or $2,550 for a three-hour game, excluding possible discounts.
And even as the Senators climb atop the National Hockey League standings, Mr. Melnyk's Biovail Corp. drug company is under siege from securities regulators in Ontario, who informed the company in November that they were investigating "suspicious trading activity" in Biovail's shares.
But on this night, you'd hardly notice the brouhaha as Ottawa defeats the New Jersey Devils, with Mr. Melnyk cheering every play at the no-frills watering hole and eatery at Rockley Beach.
(Bert's Bar now has its own signage prominently displayed at the Corel Centre in Ottawa. A Senators spokesman declined to discuss the cost of the ad.)
A full-time resident of sunny Barbados, where Biovail is headquartered for tax reasons, the 44-year-old Toronto-born executive has grown fabulously wealthy in step with the company's meteoric growth since its founding in 1994.
In both 2001 and 2002, he was the highest-paid Canadian executive after cashing stock options valued at $120-million (U.S.), compared with his annual salary of about $600,000.
He has a private jet and ocean-front estate on the island's southeast coast, with one of the best-stocked wine cellars on the island.
He spends roughly three weeks each month working in Barbados, dividing the rest of his time between Toronto and New York, where he keeps a tony apartment on the upper west side overlooking Central Park.
Two years ago, he bought the 1,000-acre Mockingbird Farm near Ocala, Fla., from leading breeder Harry Mangurian, renaming it Winding Oaks Farm.
He owns about 100 brood mares and another 100 potential racing horses, which are named after landmarks on Barbados. His racing colours are blue and gold, the colours of the flag of the island nation.
According to equibase.com, his horses posted earnings of $4.1-million in 2003, placing his stable sixth best among owners in North America.
A one-time $5 bettor along the back stretch at Woodbine racetrack in Toronto, Mr. Melnyk has been raising eyebrows at major yearling sales in the United States, spending an estimated $41.2-million to purchase 78 horses during the past 2¼years, one industry source said.
But he could be feeling the pinch these days.
The market value of his Biovail stock has shrunk to about $450-million from $1.4-billion at the end of 2001, when he was ranked as the sixth-richest person in Canada and the 303rd wealthiest in the world.
Last year, he surprised observers by privately selling at least three million of his Biovail shares, largely at depressed prices, and pledging shares for personal loans, which has raised red flags about his financial manoeuvres.
His 14-per-cent stake is still the largest single shareholding in Biovail, which is expected to report on Wednesday a 2003 profit as high as $226-million or $1.41 a share, excluding one-time items, on revenue of $890-million.
Analysts are expecting an update on the status of two probes by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and U.S. Office of the Inspector-General into Biovail's accounting and financial reporting, and how the company allegedly rewarded doctors for participating in gathering data that involved prescribing a new heart drug.
The OSC probe has also compounded Biovail's credibility problems because the agency took the unusual step of going public with its concerns, saying it wanted to set the record straight after a Biovail official was described in a newspaper report as denying that an OSC probe of the company was under way. (The OSC said it is "investigating suspicious trading activity" and "conducting a full review of disclosure records" at Biovail.)
Also looming on the horizon is a March 25 deadline for Biovail to refinance a $600-million line of credit with about a dozen banks, prompting renewed speculation that creditors may want Mr. Melnyk to give up the title of chief executive officer to a Big Pharma veteran. He would remain chairman.
Despite his self-made wealth, Mr. Melnyk remains an enigma.
While friends say he is down-to-earth, charming and generous at social gatherings, business associates often paint a different picture.
Two years ago, Mr. Melnyk began working with a group to move an NHL team to Hamilton, but, after the plan was opposed by the league commissioner, Mr. Melnyk abruptly dropped the idea and left the group hanging, sources say.
Known to be a demanding boss, he surrounds himself with loyal subordinates.
Biovail chief financial officer Brian Crombie, for example, played a key role in analyzing the insolvent Ottawa Senators for Mr. Melnyk. Last year, Mr. Crombie told The Globe and Mail that he worked on the bid on his own time and wasn't paid by Biovail.
Mr. Melnyk can turn into a street fighter to protect Biovail's reputation.
A feud with a securities analyst exploded in 2002 when the analyst's share trading records in a Biovail competitor were leaked to The Wall Street Journal.
In a $100-million defamation suit, the analyst claims Biovail tried to destroy his reputation in retaliation for his critical research coverage, an allegation that hasn't been proven in court and which the company denies.
In 1999, Mr. Melnyk appeared on ABC's 20/20, accusing a multinational drug company of offering Biovail a $20-million "bribe" not to develop a generic copy of a blockbuster heart drug.
He also has successfully sued stock market short sellers for spreading negative rumours about the company.
Now, he has threatened to sue another securities analyst, who issued a "sell" rating on Biovail after suggesting that a truck carrying a load of Biovail pills appeared to be empty based on photos and videotape of a traffic accident outside of Chicago.