Eric Lapointe hasn’t been approached by the Wetenhall family about purchasing the Montreal Alouettes, but remains a phone call away from trying to make it happen.
The Alouettes were offering no comment Wednesday regarding reports the CFL franchise is close to being sold. Various reports out of Montreal said the Alouettes – who’ve been owned by American businessman Robert Wetenhall for more than 20 years – are on the verge of being sold.
Montreal-based TSN Radio host Tony Marinaro tweeted Lapointe, a two-time Hec Crighton Trophy winner as Canada’s top university player and a former Alouettes running back, was heading up a local group that was looking into purchasing the CFL franchise.
The Canadian Press requested to speak with Alouettes president Patrick Boivin on Wednesday, but a club spokesman said in an e-mail the organization “doesn’t comment on rumours.”
However, Lapointe said he hasn’t spoken to either Wetenhall or his son, Andrew – Montreal’s director and lead governor – recently about purchasing the Alouettes. Lapointe, who now works in wealth management, did approach the senior Wetenhall’s lawyer two years ago about either forming a partnership with or selling the club outright to a local group but was turned down.
However, the Montreal native, 44, said he could quickly assemble a potential ownership group if approached.
“I don’t think it would be hard to put a group together,” Lapointe said. “There’s a lot more Francophone business owners than back in the day … there’s a lot of people who’d like to be involved “Obviously I’m passionate about football but I’m not looking for a job. I love what I do. And I can’t say enough about the Wetenhalls and what they’ve done for our city.”
The five-foot-11, 208-pound Lapointe starred collegiately at Mount Allison in Sackville, N.B. He was named Canadian university football’s top rookie in 1995 before claiming the Hec Crighton Trophy in 1996 (after rushing for a record 1,619 yards) and ‘98.
He was selected in the third round, No. 20 overall, of the ‘99 CFL draft by the Edmonton Eskimos, but joined the Hamilton Tiger-Cats later that season after being released. Lapointe was traded to the Toronto Argonauts in 2000, then joined the Alouettes as a free agent in 2001.
Lapointe remained with the Alouettes through the 2006 campaign. He was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2012.
Lapointe is currently a managing director with Stonegate Private Counsel in Montreal. His office assists high net-worth entrepreneurs with sustaining, growing and transitioning their wealth.
CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie was in Montreal on Wednesday for the league’s East regional combine as well as for a gathering with fans later in the evening. Ambrosie would neither confirm nor deny reports of the Alouettes sale, saying only the league remains committed to helping the franchise return to its former greatness.
“We have been in discussions with the Wetenhall family and Patrick Boivin about how do we work together to strengthen the Alouettes’ situation,” he said during a telephone interview. “We’re in a leave no stone unturned mode.
“At the core of everything has been, ‘How do we make a better future for the Alouettes,’ in a city that’s obviously had a proud tradition of winning. That includes, how do we help them get an on-field product that’s going to kind of match that proud history of winning?”
Ambrosie said that future does include the Wetenhall family.
“The discussions are absolutely inclusive of the Wetenhall family because we’re talking with them about how do we take this club back to where it once was,” he said. “They are very included in this discussion and very interested in setting this team on a path for its next great success.”
Lapointe told Le Journal de Montreal in 2017 that he’d be interested in joining a team of investors to buy the Alouettes if he was asked.
Robert Wetenhall resurrected the Alouettes in 1997 after the franchise was revoked from Michael Gelfand and it declared bankruptcy. Wetenhall also assumed the organization’s debts despite not legally being obligated to do so.
Early in Wetenhall’s tenure, the Alouettes were a CFL powerhouse. From 1999 to 2012, the Alouettes finished atop the East Division nine times and advanced to the Grey Cup on eight occasions, winning three.
But Montreal hasn’t been to the Grey Cup since winning it in 2010. Montreal has posted just three seasons of .500 or better three times since then. The Alouettes have been to the playoffs just three times since their last CFL championship, most recently in 2014.
Montreal has amassed a dismal 21-51 combined record the past four seasons.
In 2016, Wetenhall said the team was not for sale, despite being concerned about the plight of the franchise. The following year, Boivin reiterated the Alouettes were not on the open market.
Wetenhall was a former part-owner of the Boston Patriots (AFL) and new England Patriots (NFL). In 2011 he received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from McGill University for his work with the Alouettes and expansion of Percival Molson Stadium.
He was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2015.