CFL Pass

CP source: Starke out of running to purchase Alouettes

It seems Clifforad Starke won’t be the new owner of the Montreal Alouettes.

A CFL source said Saturday the Montreal businessman is out of the running to purchase the Alouettes. On Friday, Robert Wetenhall sold the franchise to the league, ending the American businessman’s 20-plus year ownership of the club.

The source was granted anonymity because the person is not authorized to speak on the Alouettes’ situation.

The CFL also announced Friday it’s been involved in Montreal’s day-to-day operations in recent months. The league and Wetenhalls — Bob’s son, Andrew, was the team’s lead governor — have been looking for a new owner for several months, a process the source says is ongoing.

Starke, 35, announced in April his intent to purchase the Alouettes, a team he watched become one of the CFL’s model franchises growing up. In a statement then Starke said, "It is my desire and goal to bring the Grey Cup back to where it belongs — Montreal.

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"Growing up in Montreal, I was privileged to have had a first-hand experience of the modern era glory days of the Alouettes," Starke continued. "I was childhood friends with Brad Smith, the son of former president of the Alouettes, Larry Smith. I sat and watched throughout my formative years the power of the Alouettes organization, not only within the stadium, but also throughout the community and Quebec as a whole. I sat beside the Alouettes icon Larry Smith and had aspirations of being Michael Soles and Ben Cahoon. I stood for hours to watch the 2002 Grey Cup parade with over a million other Quebecois filled with Alouette pride."

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

Starke is the chairman of Hampstead Private Capital. He has acted as a consultant, adviser and/or director to more than 15 publicly listed companies.

"As a fan, I want nothing but the best for the team and the greatest fan base in the CFL," Starke said. "In business, my partners and I have been successful in various ventures and we possess the track record, as well as expertise to stabilize the franchise, commence rebuilding a championship calibre organization and restore the legacy of the Alouettes."

With Starke no longer in the running and Montreal entrepreneur Vince Guzzo recently putting his interest in the franchise on hold, it’s unclear exactly what parties remain in the mix to purchase the club.

Former Alouettes player Eric Lapointe stated repeatedly he could put together an ownership group if approached. However, he’s said publicly he has not been contacted.

Lapointe didn’t immediately return a message Saturday.

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. It has missed the CFL playoffs the past four seasons and amassed 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.

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.