Montreal

Montreal businessman Clifford Starke confirms he wants to buy ailing Alouettes

The 35-year-old businessman says 'it is my desire and goal to bring the Grey Cup back to where it belongs — Montreal."

'It is my desire and goal to bring the Grey Cup back to where it belongs — Montreal,' businessman says

Montreal businessman Clifford Starke, shown in a handout photo, wants to buy the Alouettes. Starke (Canadian Press/Handout)

Montreal businessman Clifford Starke has formally announced his intent to purchase the Montreal Alouettes.

The 35-year-old chairman of Hampstead Private Capital put out a press release Thursday to confirm his interest.

"It is my desire and goal to bring the Grey Cup back to where it belongs — Montreal," Starke said in the release.

He said growing up in Montreal, he had "a first-hand experience of the modern era glory days of the Alouettes."

"I sat and watched throughout my formative years the power of the Alouettes organization, not only within the stadium, but also throughout the community and Quebec as a whole. I sat beside the Alouettes icon Larry Smith and had aspirations of being Michael Soles and Ben Cahoon. I stood for hours to watch the 2002 Grey Cup parade with over a million other Quebecois filled with Alouette pride."

Brad Smith, a former CFL receiver with the Toronto Argonauts and Edmonton Eskimos, is a consultant with Starke's potential ownership group. The pair have been friends since childhood.

Starke, 35, has acted as a consultant, adviser and/or director to more than 15 publicly listed companies.

The Alouettes have hit hard times of late. The club hasn't been to the CFL playoffs the past four seasons and amassed a dismal 21-51 record over that span.

Wetenhall still owns the team

Last week, the CFL said American businessman Robert Wetenhall still owns the Alouettes amid much speculation the league has assumed control of the franchise and will be tasked with finding a new owner.

"As a fan, I want nothing but the best for the team and the greatest fan base in the CFL," Starke said. "In business, my partners and I have been successful in various ventures and we possess the track record, as well as expertise to stabilize the franchise, commence rebuilding a championship calibre organization and restore the legacy of the Alouettes."

Wetenhall has owned the Alouettes for more than 20 years. He resurrected the franchise in 1997 after it was revoked from Michael Gelfand and declared bankruptcy. Wetenhall also assumed the organization's debts despite not legally being obligated to do so.

Starke says he wasin the crowd during the 2002 Grey Cup parade in Montreal, celebrating a team that featured, left to right, Kevin Johnson, Jeremaine Copeland, Keith Stokes, Mark Washington, and Thomas Haskins. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

Early in Wetenhall's tenure, the Alouettes were a model franchise. From 1999 to 2012, they finished atop the East Division nine times and making the eight Grey Cup appearances.

Wetenhall was a former part-owner of the Boston Patriots (AFL) and New England Patriots (NFL). In 2011, he received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from McGill University for his work with the Alouettes and expansion of Percival Molson Stadium.

Wetenhall was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2015.

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