Minority owner Gary Stern stepping away from Montreal Alouettes

Once again, the CFL has an ownership issue with the Montreal Alouettes to deal with.

Minority owner Gary Stern announced Monday he’s stepping away from the club’s day-to-day operations as well as his position on the CFL board of governors.

“Today, I am forced to share with you my current reality; I can no longer be responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Montreal Alouettes,” Stern wrote in an open letter to Alouettes fans. “This was a very tough decision for me and my family, but it is a final decision.

“I love this team. I love Montreal and our fans. As a lifelong sports fan, my role with the Alouettes was a dream come true. I loved every minute of it.”

Neither the CFL nor Alouettes immediately commented about Stern’s letter.

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Stern and his business partner/father-in-law, Sid Spiegel, purchased the Alouettes in January 2020 from the CFL, but Spiegel never saw the franchise play.

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The CFL cancelled the ’20 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic and Spiegel died in July 2020. His age wasn’t divulged but Spiegel was listed as 89 when he and Stern purchased the Alouettes.

“My wife Julie and I still mourn the loss, just over a year ago, of her father Sid Spiegel, who was my lifelong partner in business and in our shared dream of owning the Alouettes,” Stern wrote. “He was also my close partner in life.

“His death has effectively shelved the amazing plans we had for the Alouettes. We were ready and wanted to invest long-term in the future of the Alouettes. Due to COVID-19 cancelling CFL play, Sid, who was the 75 per cent majority owner, sadly never got a chance to see his team play. I will always regret that.”

Stern also served as the Alouettes’ CEO and added his 25 per cent ownership stake in the team “will remain.”

“Today, decisions related to team financing and operations rest with Sid’s estate,” Stern wrote. “The close partnership Sid and I had, which included our shared love of sports and our ability to grow our team the way we have invested and grown our other joint businesses for decades, no longer exists.

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“I wish nothing but the best for our team, our fans and our community. I remain one of the Alouettes’ and the CFL’s biggest fans. But I will be cheering from the sidelines as I return to my role as a private citizen and step back. Thank you to everyone in Montreal.

American businessman Robert Wetenhall owned the Alouettes from 1997 until 2018 before the CFL took over operating the franchise while it searched for new ownership.

For much of Wetenhall’s tenure, the Alouettes were a CFL powerhouse.

From 1999 to 2012, they finished atop the East Division 10 times and advanced to the Grey Cup on eight occasions, winning three. But Montreal’s last Grey Cup win during Wetenhall’s ownership was in 2010 and the franchise missed the CFL playoffs the last four year of his tenure, amassing a 21-51 overall record over that span.

And there were reports the Alouettes lost $12 million in Wetenhall’s final season as the owner.

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Wetenhall passed away in September 2021. He was 86.

Wetenhall and Stern were polar opposites as owners. While Wetenhall chose to remain behind the scenes, Stern took to social media to actively become the face of the franchise, going so far as to boldly predict victories for his team.

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The ’22 season has been a roller-coaster affair for Montreal (4-6), which is second in the East Division. The team fired head coach Khari Jones after opening the season 1-3, with GM Danny Maciocia taking over as coach on an interim basis.

Montreal remains the only CFL team to have defeated the Grey Cup-champion Winnipeg Blue Bombers this season. But last week the club suspended fullback Christophe Normand indefinitely as he faces two charges of luring a child under 18, including one count of luring a child under 16, or who the accused believed was under 16 at the time of the offence.

Montreal hosts the Ottawa Redblacks (2-8) on Friday night. On Aug. 20, the Alouettes drew a season-high 21,014 fans to Molson Stadium for their come-from-behind 29-28 victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

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