The Wright stuff
It looks like Tom Wright is going to stick around
as CFL commissioner a little longer.
Tom Wright is probably staying around
as CFL commissioner, but he doesn't have the unanimous support
of league owners.
(CP PHOTO/Paul Chiasson)
After much speculation and debate, the league's board of governors
surprisingly announced it wanted to give Wright a contract extension
It was rumoured that many owners weren't happy with Wright's leadership and wanted to go in another direction despite the league's rising popularity over the past three years.
Wright said after the announcement that he's willing to negotiate a new extension, but he wants his position clarified.
In making this demand, Wright is basically telling the franchises
that he wants the authority to run the league as he sees fit and doesn't
want to be handcuffed by some powerful owners like his predecessors.
This is not the first time the CFL has looked like a befuddled league.
In November 2002, the league messed up the announcement of Wright's appointment as its 11th commissioner. Infighting amongst the team owners delayed the press conference until about 24 hours before the Grey Cup game, resulting in minimal media coverage.
At the time, Wright told Maclean's that the poor handling of his appointment only strengthened his resolve to use his experience and leadership skills to help the CFL.
Based on the confusion about Wright's status, he still has a long way to go.
Wright also told Maclean's that his main goals included negotiating a new television contract, and setting up a common goal of where the league should be in five years. He has also been called upon to deal with such issues as expansion and enforcing the salary cap.
In February 2003, Wright accomplished one of his goals by announcing a five-year deal with TSN and CBC. Wright has also begun to aggressively move towards the establishment of an expansion franchise in the Maritimes, most likely Halifax.
However, not everything has gone as planned for Wright, who has been criticized for his failure to enforce the salary cap, even as some owners are frustrated with his determination to implement or enforce some kind of cap. While Wright talks of expansion, the Ottawa franchise in the CFL is dangerously close to folding (again) having suffering substantial losses over the last three seasons.
For a time it seemed that the problems in Ottawa might be enough to bring about Wright's demise as commissioner, but a conference call between the board of governors resulted in a decision to extend Wright's contract.
The Toronto native grew up following the CFL and played high school football. He enrolled in physical education at the University of Toronto and later studied marketing and finance at York University.
Wright started his career at Canada Packers in 1977. In 1988, he was named the president of Adidas Canada and had his first professional experience with the CFL, negotiating a three-year shoe deal.
An Adidas expansion in 1999 through the purchase of Salomon and Taylormade had a significant impact on Wright, who was selected to head Salomon North America. Wright moved to Portland, Ore., to take the position, but his wife and three daughters remained in Toronto.
Upset about being away from his family, Wright jumped at the chance to become the president and chief operating officer of Envoy Communications Group in 2001. Shortly afterward, Wright was offered the chance to become the head of the Canadian Olympic Committee, but he turned it down because the job would require too much travel.
The job of CFL commissioner may seem to be an ideal fit for Wright's love of sports and desire to stay with his family, but that does mean he immediately accepted the offer. Wright had lost interest in the CFL over the years and he was concerned about the league's lack of stability.
Wright eventually decided that his enthusiasm to accept challenges
made him well-suited to be CFL commissioner, so he accepted the job.
1953 in Toronto, Ontario
B.PH.E., University of Toronto; M.B.A., York University
G. Sydney Halter 1958-1966
Keith Davey 1966
Ted Workman 1967 (interim)
Allan McEachern 1967-1968
J.G. Gaudaur 1968-1984
Douglas H. Mitchell 1984-1988
C. William Baker 1989
R. Roy McMurty 1990 (interim)
J. Donald Crump 1990-1991
Phil Kershaw 1992 (interim)
Larry W. Smith 1992-1996
John H. Tory 1996-2000
Michael R. Lysko 2000-2002
David Braley 2002 (interim)
Tom E.S. Wright 2003 - present
Married to Jenny, a nursery school teacher; three children: Jodi, Heather and Emily
Appointed as commissioner:
Worked for Canada Packers, 1977-1980; joined Spalding Canada as product manager, 1980, and worked his way up to director of marketing; appointed president, Adidas Canada, 1988; appointed chief executive officer, Salomon North America, a subsidiary of Adidas-Salomon AG, 1999; appointed president and chief operating officer, Envoy Communications Group, 2001; appointed 11th commissioner, Canadian Football League, November 2002.
He said it:
"The most rewarding times in my life have always been the most challenging, and that's not only in work but in community and in family and my personal life." to the Edmonton Journal