CFL Pass

With ownership in place, Alouettes must move quickly to find president, GM

Gary Stern, one half of the Alouettes’ new ownership tandem, claims he knows nothing about football.

But at least he’s astute enough to understand it’s imperative the Canadian Football League team hires a new president and general manager as soon as possible.

Stern, who will be in Montreal until Wednesday night, said he’d like to have both executives in place by the end of the week, although that’s not carved in stone, he quickly added. But he realizes time’s of the essence.

Not only does CFL free agency begin in five weeks, it’s important any new president gets out into the community to help drum up support for a team that has struggled to sell tickets and entice corporate sponsors.

Stern, announced on Monday with his father-in-law, Sid Spiegel, as the team’s new owners, said he has four potential candidates for president. Indeed, he was going to speak with one Monday afternoon, after attending his introductory news conference.

While any president doesn’t necessarily have to be a francophone, he must be bilingual, Stern stressed. Two potential candidates are Len Rhodes and Mario Cecchini.

Rhodes, who appears to be the front-runner, is a Montreal native and was the president and chief executive officer of the Edmonton Eskimos from 2011 until last February, when it was announced he wouldn’t be seeking another term with the community-owned team.

Another name to consider is Cecchini, the president of Gestion DSJ. He’s also the former president of Corus Media Quebec and a former senior vice-president (sales and marketing) for Astral Radio.

Stern said the president will be hired first, so he can be involved in the hiring of the GM. Stern, who will serve as the Als’ lead governor, said he’ll offer his advice and gut feel to the president about a new GM, but nothing more.

“I want someone who understands the community, one who understands a profit and loss statement. One who can manage people,” Stern explained. “Ultimately the president’s in charge of the GM, coach and administrative staff. He’s ultimately responsible for profit and loss. He has to be a people person … within his own organization.”

The search for a GM had been in the hands of former Als president Patrick Boivin and Wally Buono, the former GM and head coach of the B.C. Lions who was hired by the CFL as an adviser. That search was put on hold last month until new ownership could be found and, last Friday, the league announced Boivin was fired.

Numerous potential GM candidates — Hamilton’s Shawn Burke along with Winnipeg’s Ryan Rigmaiden and Danny McManus — removed themselves from the equation, likely because the Als had no owner.

That was in December. Now that it’s January, their respective organizations might be reluctant to grant the Als permission, once again, for interviews, provided any still remain interested.

Former Als GM Jim Popp, fired late last season by the Toronto Argonauts, hasn’t hidden his desire to return to Montreal. Other former CFL GMs who could be in the running include Jim Barker, Eric Tillman and Danny Maciocia. Maciocia, coincidentally, was with the Eskimos as well. Now the head coach at Université de Montréal, the St-Léonard native undoubtedly would be a popular hire.

While Stern, due to confidentiality, wouldn’t discuss any names, he did admit this about Maciocia when prompted: “I can tell you Danny’s a great guy.”

While the new owners are both Toronto natives who made their fortunes in the steel industry, Stern said he realizes Quebec’s a truly unique and diverse market. He doesn’t believe he and Spiegel will confront potential cultural barriers.

“Why wouldn’t (people) accept us?” Stern said. “We all have the same goal — to have an exciting, winning team that we’re all proud to be a part of.”

Stern said he wants a team that plays with passion and emotion. He said management, the coaches and players will be held to the highest standards.


More on this: 737 stories