Friday, November 7, 2014

Group Reported Interested in Bringing Back the Expos

  

   According to a report in La Presse, several prominent Montreal businessmen have been investigating the possibility of bringing major league baseball back to Montreal.

   For over a year, a group that includes Stephen Bronfman, Mitch Garber, Larry Rossy, and representatives from Bell Canada have been looking into that possibility, in the event that a Major League team (hello, Tampa) becomes available, and financing for a new downtown stadium is secured.

   Bronfman, son of the man who brought the Expos to Montreal, and their majority owner from 1969 to 1991, was a minority shareholder in the Expos himself from 1999 to 2004.  He headed a consortium that unsuccessfully tried to purchase the Montreal Canadiens in 2009.

   Garber is CEO of Caesars Acquisition Company, one of the largest online gambling companies in the world, including the rights to the World Series of Poker.  Caesars is traded on NASDAQ, and has a net worth of $1.38 billion.  Their headquarters are in Montreal.

   Rossy is CEO of the Dollarama chain of bargain stores. Canadian Business magazine last year estimated the Rossy family fortune to be in the neighbourhood of $1.4 billion.

   According to the report, Bell, which owns 18% of the group which owns the Canadiens and the Bell Centre, funded the study, and has expressed interest in being part of an eventual ownership group.

   All of the talks, of course, are very preliminary at this point, although there have been rumours that Tampa owner Stuart Sternberg has been in Montreal lately, presumably not to try the smoked meat at Schwartz's Deli.

   While we think that the return of Major League Baseball to Montreal is still the longshot poster child, it's comforting to know that there's a fairly deep-pocketed group that could operate a team on a day-to-day basis.  Would they be able to amass enough capital to purchase a team and help finance a new stadium?

   There have been no talks between the group and the government about a stadium, which would be the cornerstone of any franchise move.  It has been estimated that the cost of the team would come in at around $525 million, while the stadium would cost close to $500 million, with the group expected to finance a third of that cost.

   So, could this group raise close to $700 million ?  The article suggests that they could raise about $200 million.  And would the federal and provincial governments be willing to foot stadium costs of over $350 million?  That seems unlikely, especially given the current finances of the Quebec government, and the federal government's policy of not investing in pro sports stadiums.

   Although there is a federal election coming up in 11 months....
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