Montreal Alouettes running back Eric Lapointe announces his retirement at a news conference in Montreal on February 16, 2007. Time is of the essence for Eric Lapointe. The former CFL running back remains interested in putting together a group to purchase the Montreal Alouettes. However, Lapointe needs to know very soon exactly what the franchise’s status is. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Ryan Remiorz

Eric Lapointe says his group could return to Alouettes’ ownership picture

Eric Lapointe’s group remains out of the Montreal Alouettes ownership picture, but could re-emerge with a simple telephone call.

The former Hec Crighton Trophy winner announced April 6 his potential investors had decided against purchasing the Alouettes. Just three weeks earlier, Lapointe said he was simply a phone call away from quickly assembling a potential ownership group to buy the troubled franchise but that call never came.

There were reports Monday that Lapointe’s group was back in the Als’ ownership picture, a claim Lapointe denied. However, the 44-year-old native of Brossard, Que., reiterated he could quickly re-assemble his investors if called upon.

“There’s no being back in the picture because I don’t have anything,” Lapointe said in a telephone interview. “I could be in … I don’t see why I’d say no (if either CFL or Als came calling).

“I’ll never say no to anything. Why say never when it could be something that could be done for the community? I went out for the reason that I needed to do it but so far there’s been no offer, no confirmation from the team and from the league that the league actually bought it.”

The CFL has steadfastly maintained that American businessman Robert Wetenhall continues to own and operate the Alouettes. However, there are persistent reports the league has assumed control of the franchise and will broker any potential purchase agreement for the team.

So far, Montreal businessman Clifford Starke has been the only individual to publicly state his interest in purchasing the Alouettes, doing so formally in a statement Thursday. However, there are reports another two additional potential groups also exist.

Starke, 35, grew up attending Alouettes games when they were among the CFL’s best teams. On Saturday, Starke told The Canadian Press communication with the CFL has already begun and that he and his partners could assume ownership of the franchise as early as this season.

“I wanted to make something happen … but at the same time I realize it’s not an easy transaction,” Lapointe said. “It wasn’t simple for us so we decided to drop it at that point.

“But if it’s an interesting situation I don’t see why anybody would be out. We had interest at one point and if there’s actually an offer, I think there’s actually going to be a couple of players that will be available.”

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.

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.

Wetenhall was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2015.

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