For Pierre Karl Peladeau, acquiring the Montreal Alouettes is not a business transaction but a labour of love.
The Montreal native, who is reportedly worth US$1.9 billion, reached a deal to buy the Canadian Football League team from the league on Friday.
While the terms of the sale remained confidential, part of an agreement with the team’s former owners, Peladeau said that he needed to sign “not a small cheque.”
“This is not a business operation, this is about pride,” Peladeau said in his introductory press conference at Olympic Stadium. “The Alouettes have gone through a period of instability for a certain amount of time and my engagement is for the long-term.
“We will do what is necessary to make sure that our fans keep being proud of their team, its investment in the community and to bring us success once again.”
CFL commissioner Randy Ambroise called Peladeau’s acquisition of the team “the beginning of a wonderful new era” and a “win-win” for his league. He added that approximately 10 groups were interested in acquiring the Alouettes, but Peladeau’s passion to and the possibility to have local ownership in Montreal tipped the scales for him and the CFL governors.
The 61-year-old Peladeau becomes the first local Alouettes owner in the current iteration of the franchise and first since Leo Dandurand founded the original Alouettes in 1946.
“Those are the very qualities that we’ve seen in owners like Bob Young (of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats),” said Ambrosie. “We’ve seen those exact same qualities in B.C. recently with (Amar) Dolman and his passion and dedication to the community.”
Peladeau made the decision to personally acquire the team, rather than doing so through media and telecommunications company Quebecor Inc., of which he is the president and chief executive officer. He said that the company is in the midst of a $3-billion wireless deal which he did not want to disturb.
“(The Alouettes are) not a company that is generating profits, it doesn’t mean that we won’t one day, but at this time it requires capital,” Peladeau said. “In that optic, we don’t want the Alouettes to be a distraction for our teams.
“It became obvious to me that a Quebecor implication in the Alouettes wasn’t appropriate but it will remain associated with the team because Quebecor can bring a lot to the Alouettes and the Alouettes can bring to Quebecor.”
The CFL is currently committed to a media rights deal with TSN and RDS, owned by Quebecor rival Bell Media, until 2025.
“The rights are managed by the league, there are no local rights,” Peladeau said. “We’ll see what happens (in 2025) but I think it would be premature to anticipate anything. We’ll need to wait for the right time to assess that situation.”
Former Alouettes president Mario Cecchini was brought back on by the league on an interim basis when it took over the team on Feb. 14 from the estate of Ontario businessmen Sid Spiegel and Gary Stern, Spiegel’s son-in-law. His mandate was to facilitate a transaction, along with the CFL banking partner Park Lane.
Cecchini was recently appointed as commissioner of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and will take office May 8.
“I’m not saying we’ll take three years, but you’ll need to give us a few days or a few weeks to take the necessary steps,” Peladeau said of finding a future president. “We’ve identified candidates and it’s important to take the necessary time in order to fully understand the objective.”
When asked if Annie Larouche, a former Alouettes staffer and current vice-president of the Canadian Elite Basketball League’s Montreal Alliance, was a candidate, Peladeau paused, then laughed and told the reporter: “You’re smart.”
The Alouettes currently play at McGill University’s Percival Molson stadium, which the team doesn’t own. The team trains at Olympic Park, which it doesn’t own either. When asked about the situation, Peladeau said that the Alouettes would play at Percival Molson stadium to start the season, at least.
“It’s not the most modern stadium, it’s actually one of the oldest, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t something to do about it,” Peladeau said. “I think that as we speak it may be premature to give an answer on (improving the stadium) without having taken the necessary time.”
The Alouettes’ neighbours, CF Montreal of Major League Soccer, have stated their intent in improving their conditions. President Gabriel Gervais said this week that the team was open to improving their home, Stade Saputo, or even building a new stadium.
Peladeau, who has had connections with the soccer team through Quebecor, didn’t shut the door on a possible partnership for a new stadium at some point down the line. Toronto’s BMO Field currently hosts the CFL’s Argonauts and MLS club Toronto FC, who are both owned by Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment.
“(CF Montreal owner) Joey Saputo and I know each other very well and I hold him and his family in high regard,” he said. “It would be premature to consider. But is this something that is conceivable for the future? It’s not impossible, and if it was, I can assure you that we would do it with great enthusiasm.”