On May 20, 2022, Aazhogan Limited Partnership ("Aazhogan"), a partnership of Rainy River First Nations and BMI Group, completed the acquisition of the international toll bridge between Fort Frances, Ontario and International Falls, Minnesota.
This transaction secures full ownership of the landmark toll bridge and international border crossing by Aazhogan, which previously purchased the US side of the bridge in May 2021, and is understood to be the first indigenous-led acquisition of an international border crossing in North America.
"The Anishinaabe word 'Aazhogan' means 'Bridge'", said transaction lead Thomas J. Timmins, "a very fitting name chosen purposefully to recognize the many bridges which needed to be crossed in order to make this deal a reality." "Aazhogan honours both the international bridge itself and the opportunities inherent in the bridging of ideas, cultures and traditions."
"The unique role that our firm played in supporting Aazhogan throughout this transaction included introducing the acquiring parties, negotiating both the US and the Canadian side transactions, steering the parties through various regulatory hurdles and the challenges brought on due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and helping to ensure that the requirements of the first nation transaction lead, Rainy River First Nations, were understood, respected, and absorbed properly into the transaction terms", Timmins added. "We are deeply honoured to have played a part."
Gowling WLG advised Aazhogan with respect to arranging, structuring and executing the acquisition with a team led by Timmins and that included, among others, Patrick Shea (restructuring), David Torchetti and Sean Whiting (corporate), Graham Darling (real estate) and Michael Bussmann (tax), assisted by students-at-law Jaanam Mahboobani and Matthew Brooker.