March 13, 2019 2:51 pm

Montreal Alouettes have no comment on rumours of sale of franchise

Are the Montreal Alouettes about to be sold?

Peter Power/The Canadian Press

The Montreal 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.

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Montreal-based TSN Radio host Tony Marinaro tweeted Eric Lapointe, a onetime Hec Crighton Trophy winner as top university player in the country and 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 email the organization “doesn’t comment on rumours.”

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.

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“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, who now works in wealth management, told Le Journal de Montréal 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Robert Wetenhall resurrected the Alouettes in 1997 after the franchise was revoked from Michael Gelfand and it declared bankruptcy.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.

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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 and 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 record the past four seasons combined.

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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.

© 2019 The Canadian Press

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