Unless you’ve avoided sports news of late, you know the Montreal Expos are dominating parts of them, and for good reason. It’s not every day that an ownership group as strong as Montreal’s seems to be gets together and voices what they have: that they want an MLB franchise in Montreal, and that they’re checking off the list to make it happen based on MLB’s Commissioner’s requests.
That speaks volumes, and recent events have amped up the volume significantly.
But before we go there, let’s pain the picture facing Rays ownership (including timeline), and walk through the potential owners in Montreal (which could, in theory, also include current Rays owner Stu Sternberg himself in a minor way).
Rays Timeline of Events
I’ve trimmed these down in order to keep the aim of the article intact, but here are the broad notes over time:
- May ’08: Plans new $450M stadium, $150M from Stu Sternberg.
- Jun ’10: Stu ultimatum, states that
#Rays NEED to explore other sites.
- The “need” portion, all the way back in 2010, essentially paints the picture of how St-Petersburg was viewed at that point in time. Will that opinion hold?
- Jan ’16: St. Petersburg grants permission.
- Finally, Rays ownership gets to work and begins looking at potential sites, with a clear 3-year timeline to do so.
- During this time, St-Peterburg presented the Rays their bid, available in this tweet,
— Shadow of Stadium (@StadiumShadow) April 5, 2017
Despite this proposed plan, many favourite sites get scrubbed off the list for various administrative and political reasons, but eventually…
#Rays announce the design of their new stadium in Ybor. Ballpark will not be retractable but will have a fixed/translucent roof. Stadium will have “sliding glass exterior walls to bring the outside in.” Total capacity will be 30,842 (28,216 fixed)= smallest in MLB. @MLBcathedrals pic.twitter.com/45Cjja8cHc
— John Sabol (@John_Sabol) July 10, 2018
- Feb 9 ’18: Ybor selected, $892M stadium, Sternberg’s part “North of $150M”.
- The Rays and Sternberg settle on Ybor and a beautiful stadium with translucent roof.
- Of note here, Sternberg talked about “North of $150M” but may have concentrated the Northern portion on the naming rights, which he repeatedly noted as being something that should be included as the Rays portion of payments.
- Dec ’18: No deal, Ybor opportunity dies.
- As exciting as those plans were, the “Tampa Bay Rays 2020” support was noted as lacking, the guarantees of funding to finance the stadium were not evident, and so the deal.
The reason I wanted to note Stu Sternberg never publicly stating an amount he was comfortable investing in a Rays stadium build – with maximum noted as $150M – is that it does represent a significant portion of his wealth. With “only” $800M in net worth, you have to believe that not all of that is liquid. So it stands to reason that he’d be hesitant to invest the majority of it in a stadium which may or may not bring in more fans.
That’s the Rays side of things.
Feel free to take a look back at how I believed the “Montreal Ownership Group Positioned for MLB Relocation“, not expansion. Here’s the Expos side update from that point onwards.
Montreal Expos: The Best Ownership Group Imaginable
No matter how you cut, slice, and dice it, the ownership group the Expos exposed, as soon as news of Rays Ybor site dying came to light, is the best imaginable.
We used to believe that Stephen Bronfman’s substantial family wealth would lead the pack regardless of who was brought in. That’s no longer the case. And the strength of this group doesn’t end there. They have experts in various areas, including entertainment, online industries, investments, entrepreneurship, and yes – even baseball.
Notably, many are also self-made wealthy businessmen who had to struggle through their respective family’s business demises in order to earn what they have.
On Stephen Bronfman, his fellow investors, baseball in Montreal, the Tampa Bay Rays, timing, momentum and kismet: The eventual return of Major League Baseball to Montreal seems a little more real https://t.co/KNDKoaqAU6
— Аrpon Basu (@ArponBasu) December 15, 2018
Here are the potential Expos owners of note (so far, and that I’m aware of), in alphabetical order with a few notes added.
- President and Chief Executive Officer, Claridge, Inc (since 2011)
- Director of Canadian Satellite Radio
- 13th President of the Montreal Canadiens
- Chairman of Montreal Canadien’s Children’s Foundation which he founded in 2000
- Member of the Board of Directors of Canadian Chamber of Commerce
Independent Director National Bank of Canada (since 2013)
Independent Director Canadian Tire Corporation, Limited (since 2013)
- Affiliations: Fuelstream, Inc., Molson Inc., Canadian Tire Corporation, Limited, National Bank of Canada, Club de hockey Canadien, Inc., ISACSOFT Inc.
- Cgi Group Inc
- Formerly, Chairman
- Executive Chairman of the Board of Claridge, Inc
- Chairman of Esarbee Investments Ltd
- Director of SunOpta Inc. (formerly Stake Technology Ltd.) since 2001
- Board of Directors of: The David Suzuki Foundation, The Saidye Bronfman Centre for the Arts, The Samuel and Saidye Bronfman Family Foundation, The Summit School Foundation
- Previously President and Chief Executive Officer of Claridge, Inc
- Was also Co-Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Montreal Expos Baseball Club and Co-Chairman of Grand Entertainment
- Affiliations: Joseph E. Seagram & Sons, Inc., SunOpta Inc., Esarbee Investments Ltd.
- Founder, Chairman, President & CEO of GardaWorld since 1999
- Founded Le Groupe de Sécurité Trans-Quebec
- Director of TransCanada PipeLines Limited since Feb 2017
- Served as the President and Chief Executive Officer of Rafale Capital Corp
- Presided over the Daffodil Ball, Canada’s largest charity event for the Canadian Cancer Society
- Cretier Foundation: dedicated to crime prevention and helping young artists in emerging Middle East markets
- Areas of “expertise include Mergers & Acquisitions, Operations/health, safety & environment, Risk management and Strategy & leading growth”
- Ex-Milb Umpire
- Owns significant portion of GardaWorld
- Affiliations: TransCanada Corporation, University of California, BioEnvelop Technologies Corporation, Universite De Montreal, L’, Groupe De Sécurité Garda Inc., Le, Garda Cash Logistics, Inc., TransCanada PipeLines Limited, ORTHOsoft, Inc.
- Chief Executive Officer of Caesars Interactive Entertainment LLC (formerly known as, Caesars Interactive Entertainment, Inc.) since 2009
- Chief Executive Officer and President of Caesars Acquisition Company
Chairman Cirque du Soleil Inc.
Director Rackspace Hosting, Inc.
- CEO of Partygaming Plc (also known as, bwin.party digital entertainment plc) from April 2006 to May 16, 2008
- CEO of Optional Payments Inc., and its predecessor, Terra Payments Inc April 2004 to March 2006
- “Advised several leading US casino operators and equipment suppliers, including MGM Grand, Caesars, Hilton and International Game Technology”
- Affiliations: Rackspace Hosting, Inc., WowWee Holdings Inc., Optimal Payments Inc.
What a list!
And that’s why Stephen Bronfman went as far as to say even Toronto couldn’t match the all-star team they’ve been able to put together in Montreal.
So now you have the ownership sorted out, and MLB’s ear, what’s next?
Stadium Site, Financing, and a Franchise
As Bronfman has stated recently, all of this momentum means nothing if they don’t have a stadium site. And unlike in Quebec City, where they built an arena without actually having an NHL team to move into it, they’re not building that stadium without a franchise to move into it. So here are the next steps:
- The first step is to select – AND SECURE – a stadium location, with all of the levels of Government providing the framework of how much it will cost – or not cost – the team over the long-term.
- The second step is to line up the financing. That may seem easy when you look at the Net Worth of those listed above, but they didn’t make that wealth by spending freely. Sources of income, rates, etc… all need to be put on paper, signed, sealed, and delivered to MLB for review.
- At that point, the onus falls on MLB to figure out what they want to do. The options right now look to be these (due to St-Petersburg issues noted above)
- Wait until 2027 for the Rays to move somewhere other than the Tropicana Field site, foregoing MLB expansion until 2023-24, when that stadium situation is figured out;
- MLB Purchase the team from Stu Sternberg & work through Lease issues with St-Petersburg and new ownership elsewhere; or
- Stu Sterberg sells directly to new owners who work out Lease issues with St-Petersburg group, possibly using stake in land there as leverage.
The key points in Montreal’s case (as a strength), includes the ownership noted above, great relationship with MLB commissioner, all levels of government lined up to help, research completed as requested by MLB, and a stadium ready to welcome a team tomorrow.
If looking for negatives, they’d be taking a market share away from the Toronto Blue Jays and Rogers, the Canadian Dollar fluctuations, and the need for a new stadium to be built.
The last point is important for 2 reasons: first, with a new roof being put on olympic stadium and work beginning in 2023, the new stadium NEEDS to be built by then, and second, if a non-retractable roof option is decided on (open air) with natural grass, the Olympic stadium can still be secured as a rainy day option (with a brand new retractable roof on it by 2026 for the Soccer World Cup). That would make a new stadium build’s cost much cheaper than with a retractable roof included.
*of note, Provencher Roy was once 75% through stadium designs when investors decided to stop the design project, available here
Expos Reloaded: More to Come
Realize this is a long article, but it’s been a while since I’ve posted and I’ve been busy getting to know what may become Expos prospect one day at @WanderRays. If you want to get to know the team, that’s a great place to start if you believe a move is set to take place! And if not, at least you’ll know the competition well.
With news coming fast and furious, and with potential site & financing being in place by March 2019, I’ll be posting much more regularly, so stay tuned.