CFL purchases Alouettes from Wetenhalls, will look for new owner

MONTREAL — The Wetenhall era in Montreal is over.

The CFL announced Friday that Bob Wetenhall has sold the Montreal Alouettes to the league. A joint statement from the Alouettes and the league said the CFL and the Wetenhalls — Bob’s son Andrew was the team’s lead governor — have been looking to find a new owner for the team for several months, and that process will continue.

The league also said it has been involved in the club’s day-to-day operations in recent months.

“We want to reassure Alouettes’ players, coaches, staff and fans that this is part of an orderly, step-by-step process that is entirely devoted to putting in place a new foundation for the Alouettes’ and the CFL’s success,” commissioner Randy Ambrosie said in a statement.

A few names have emerged as potential owners for the troubled club.

Former Alouettes player Eric Lapointe has stated he could put together an ownership group if approached, but there are serious questions regarding whether he was ever contacted. In April, Montreal businessman Clifford Starke publicly stated his intention to purchase the Alouettes, but it remains unclear exactly where that situation stands.

And there was a recent report that Montreal entrepreneur Vince Guzzo, former CFL head coach/GM Danny Maciocia — now the head coach at the University of Montreal — and commissioner Randy Ambrosie were all seen sitting together at a restaurant, putting Guzzo in the potential ownership mix.

“Our conversations have led to significant interest by new ownership groups and we are confident in the process we initiated many months ago.”

Bob Wetenhall resurrected the Alouettes in 1997 after they were revoked from Michael Gelfand and 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, they 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. The club has missed the CFL playoffs the past four seasons, amassing a dismal 21-51 record over that span.

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.

Lapointe, 44, twice captured the Hec Crighton Trophy as Canadian university football’s top player while at Mount Allison. He went on to spend eight CFL seasons as a running back Edmonton, Hamilton, Toronto and Montreal, playing six of those campaigns with the Alouettes through 2006.

Lapointe was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2012 and now works in wealth management.

Starke, 35, has acted as a consultant, adviser and/or director to more than 15 publicly listed companies.

Brad Smith, a former CFL receiver with the Toronto Argonauts and Edmonton Eskimos, is a consultant with Starke’s potential ownership group.

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