Owner Gary Stern stepping away from Alouettes


By Dave Naylor TSN

It appears the Montreal Alouettes are once again in the market for a new owner. 

Outspoken minority owner Gary Stern is stepping away from day-to-day operations with the club and resigning from his role with the Canadian Football League’s board of governors, effective immediately. 

Stern, who was also the team’s CEO, purchased the club in partnership with his late father-in-law Sid Spiegel in January of 2019. Spiegel passed away just over a year ago. 

With Stern as 25 per cent owner, Spiegel’s passing put his 75 per cent share of the Alouettes under control of his estate. 

The settlement of that estate remains a complicated matter, and it’s believed Stern has received little co-operation when it comes to matters concerning the Alouettes. 

Stern will retain his share of the team but all other involvement with the club is over. By Monday morning, his previously active Twitter account had been deactivated.

While the league will undoubtedly need a new owner for its Montreal franchise, the current ownership remains in place at this time.

The league, which was informed of Stern’s intentions just recently, must now find a new owner for a franchise it operated at a significant loss for a full season in 2019. Stern and Spiegel took over roughly three months before the COVID-19 pandemic ground the league’s operations to a halt, forcing the cancellation of the 2020 season. 

Stern has been publicly enthusiastic about the Alouettes, including a significant presence on social media. But as one person close to him put it, “This isn’t what he signed up for.”

Stern, who lives in Southern Ontario, is the CEO of Crawford Steel, the company founded by his late father-in-law. 

Stern bought into the Alouettes at the urging of his longtime friend Dale Lastman, lawyer and director of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, which owns the Toronto Argonauts. Lastman served as chair of the CFL board of governors from December of 2019 until February of 2022, when it was announced he was stepping down. 

The CFL has been working with investment bankers to create an inventory of potential owners for expansion, or existing franchises, should they be needed. 

The Alouettes were owned by Robert Wetenhall and his family from 1997 until 2018, at which time the league took over team operations while searching for a new owner. Wetenhall’s ownership oversaw a period of consistent on-field success up until 2013, during which time Percival Molson Stadium was expanded from roughly 20,000 seats to roughly 25,000. 

Montreal recently drew its biggest home crowd of the season, announced at 21,024, while averaging between 16,000 and 17,000 fans per game. 

It has been reported that the Alouettes lost $12 million in their final season under Wetenhall. It’s believed the other eight CFL teams had to commit roughly $1 million each to keep the team afloat under league ownership in 2019, some of which was refunded when Stern and Spiegel bought the team.

Stern told the Montreal Gazette last December that the team’s 2021 deficit was “higher than expected.”

The Alouettes are 4-6 on the season and host Ottawa this Friday.