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Canadian Football League takes over ownership of Montreal Alouettes franchise

The Canadian Football League has again taken over operating the Montreal Alouettes.

The Canadian Football League has again taken over operating the Montreal Alouettes.

The CFL made the announcement Tuesday, adding former Alouettes president Mario Cecchini has been appointed interim president

In a statement, the CFL said Cecchini will lead the franchise’s day-to-day operations under supervision from the league office. General manager Danny Maciocia will continue “to focus on the important work of building the team’s roster for the upcoming 2023 season.”

The announcement comes on the first day of CFL free agency.

“The CFL has informed the CFLPA that they will assume ownership of the Montreal Football Club effective immediately, as the former ownership group has relinquished control,” the CFL Players’ Association said in a statement. “All club operations will resume, including free agency and preparation for the 2023 CFL season.

“The league will fund all day-to-day operational expenses and continue to ensure all the financial obligations are met.”

This marks the second time in roughly four years that the CFL has taken over operating the Alouettes. It did so May 31, 2019 from Robert and Andrew Wetenhall.

The CFL sold the Alouettes to Ontario businessmen Sid Spiegel and Gary Stern, Spiegel’s son-in-law, in January 2020. But Spiegel died in July 2021 having never seen the club play as the CFL didn’t operate in 2020 due to the global pandemic.

Spiegel’s estate had maintained a 75 per cent ownership stake in the franchise, with Stern assuming the other 25 per cent. Last August, Stern announced he was stepping away from day-to-day operations with the team and leaving his position on the CFL board of governors.

However, Stern did not give up his ownership stake in the franchise.

The CFL says it has “initiated an accelerated and formal sales process, which is being led by its investment banking partner, Park Lane, a leading sports-focused advisory firm whose clients include major league sports properties around the world.”

The league added “multiple parties” have expressed “serious interest” in purchasing the Alouettes, including individuals, groups and businesses “that reside or operate in Montreal or elsewhere in Quebec.”

“The CFL wants to express its deep gratitude for their stewardship of the Alouettes,” the CFL stated. “Sid Spiegel and Gary Stern purchased the team in 2020 at a critical time in its history.

“Following Sid’s sad passing in 2021, his estate and Gary continued the mission to deliver winning and entertaining football. The franchise is stronger for all these contributions, a fact which is reflected in the interest currently being shown in the Alouettes’ future.”

​Cecchini was hired as Alouettes president in 2020, signing a three-year contract. But last December, Cecchini was informed by Spiegel’s estate that his deal wouldn’t be renewed.

Montreal (9-9) finished second in the East Division standings last year. The Alouettes dispatched the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 28-17 in the playoffs to advance to their first conference final berth since 2014.

But the Toronto Argonauts defeated Montreal 34-27 at BMO Field before downing the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 24-23 for their first Grey Cup title since 2017.

However, the 2022 season was a challenging one at the turnstiles for both Toronto and Montreal as they were the only CFL franchise to average less than 20,000 spectators per game.