Braley begins process of selling team

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SammyGreene
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Fri Nov 20, 2015 7:24 am

Kind of funny Skulsky says the Lions are not for sale on one side of the country yet Braley tells the Globe and Mail otherwise.
The process to sell the B.C. Lions is under way, with 19 parties having expressed interest and long-time owner David Braley beginning to assess potential buyers.

Braley, 74, wants to sell to someone who will take at least a majority stake in the team and will be a steward for the club in British Columbia. He doesn’t want to sell to a group in which each member holds a small fraction.

“The most important thing is they look after the club as part of the community,” Braley said in an interview on Wednesday, from his office at his auto-parts company Orlick Industries Ltd. in Hamilton.

Of the 19 parties interested in the Lions, 14 are local, with others located in Calgary, Edmonton, California, Las Vegas and Florida. Braley will first focus on the local 14. Braley said he didn’t know how long the process would extend.

“That may take all this year. It may take next year. Who knows? We will just start to sort it now, with the interested parties.”

Braley has owned the Lions since early 1997. He had previously owned the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, from 1987 to 1990.

As Braley approaches his 75th birthday next May, he is stepping away from his direct stake in the CFL.

Earlier this year, Braley sold the Toronto Argonauts to Bell Canada and Larry Tanenbaum’s Kilmer Group, a deal that is set to close at the end of this year. Braley has been a key backer of the Canadian football and his acquisition of the Argos in early 2010 was a financial rescue job.


Valuation will be a key question in the sale of the Lions. In 2014, Braley floated a figure of $40-million for the club, which is considered by some observers to be high.

The CFL is on stronger financial footing these days, buoyed especially by a five-year television deal with TSN worth about $40-million, running through to 2018. New Argos co-owner Bell Media owns TSN.

The Lions have also benefited from holding the Grey Cup twice in recent years, 2011 and 2014, at BC Place, with a capacity of 50,000-plus.

The Lions, however, are a team in transition. B.C. has made the playoffs in each of the 19 seasons Braley has owned the team but this year’s 7-11 record is the worst of Braley’s tenure. The Lions were beaten up by the Calgary Stampeders in the West semi-final last Sunday.

B.C. last won a Grey Cup in 2011 and had the league’s best record in 2012, but lost in the West final – and has slid each year since.

Attendance has also slid. The recent peak at BC Place was about 30,000 a game in 2012 and has fallen each year. This season was the worse, falling to about 21,000 from 28,000.

Braley’s early years as owner, in the late 1990s, saw average attendance below 20,000. It began to turn higher when Wally Buono took over as coach in 2003 and sparked a run of success.

Buono’s future as the Lions general manager, through this past difficult season, has been debated by fans. He retired as coach after the Grey Cup win in 2011 and this year’s 7-11 is his second-worst season as a CFL coach or GM, ahead of only his last year in Calgary in 2002 when his team went 6-12.

Buono, 65, has one year left on his contract. Braley on Wednesday expressed confidence in Buono.

“We understand each other,” Braley said. “He’s still as good a football man as I know. There’s four or five coaches or general managers in the league I really think are superb – and he’s one of them.”

On Wednesday at Lions headquarters in the Vancouver suburbs, Buono spoke to reporters, to reflect on the past year and to look ahead. Pressed about his future and the future of coach Jeff Tedford, Buono said nothing has been decided yet. He plans to sit down with Braley and team president Dennis Skulsky soon.

“You don’t think we’re frustrated with all of this?” said Buono near the end of a half-hour session.

The Lions, despite their record, had as many divisional all-stars as the Stampeders, eight. The Lions also have a promising young quarterback, Jonathon Jennings. “The distance between being a good club and being an outstanding club isn’t all that much,” said Buono, wearing the Order of Canada pin, which he was awarded earlier this fall, on his suit jacket lapel.

Skulsky, like Buono, has one year left on his contract. As the sale process begins, Skulsky likely will step aside from his role as team president, as he is widely expected to help lead one of the potential buyers groups.

“At that time the decision will have to be made, whether I’m interested in staying or being part of an ownership group,” said Skulsky on Wednesday, after Buono spoke.

Like his management team, Braley wasn’t happy with the Lions 2015 season. “I’ve very disappointed – 7-11 is not very good.”

Asked whether he’d be at the helm when the CFL’s 2016 season kicks off next June, Braley smiled.

“Who knows,” he said, chuckling. “Who knows.”

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MexicoLionFan
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Fri Nov 20, 2015 9:28 am

Thanks for posting Sammy...this is par for the course of the Lions under the control of Wally Buono...not so much when Bob Ackles was in charge. I like Blitz's idea of bringing Scott Ackles back into the fold in a meaningful way.
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Fri Nov 20, 2015 9:34 am

Interest from Las Vegas and Florida ?

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Fri Nov 20, 2015 9:42 am

I'm glad that Braley is beginning the sale process. The decline in the team's on-field performance, with no home payoff game since 2012, and the decline in attendance and TV viewership must be hurting the team's asset value. Braley can't afford to take a hands-off approach to management next year if he wants to get a good price. That has to start with rebuilding the season ticket base this offseason.

Skulsky's comment about stepping aside as president during the sale process shows his commitment to being art of a bidding group, perhaps involving some of the former Waterboys. He won't want the sale process to drag on beyond 2016 if he is taking such a step.
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Lions4ever
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Fri Nov 20, 2015 9:51 am

TheLionKing wrote:Interest from Las Vegas and Florida ?
And 19 potential suitors? 19? Seriously?

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WestCoastJoe
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Fri Nov 20, 2015 10:06 am

Braley has been a very good owner. But he has also been too much of an absentee owner IMO. Especially lately.

This is a very quick turnaround from what Skulsky said recently. Yes, best to sell as the franchise has not been doing well. Wins are down, as is attendance.

And the organization seems confused and lacking direction. Who is in charge? Braley? He seems to have farmed it out. Skulsky? He does not have the authority to fire the GM. Buono? Day to day, the organization reflects his values. The culture in place is one he created during the time he has been running the show.

It is time for a change in ownership, in the view of this fan. I hope the new ownership is local. I hope Braley chooses well.

If the Aquilini family is amongst the prospective buyers, that would be fine with me.
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The_Pauser
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Fri Nov 20, 2015 10:06 am

Hoping for local ownership, but please keep the team away from Aquilini.
THINK about it

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David
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Fri Nov 20, 2015 10:20 am

I read this article yesterday in the Globe And Mail and just had to shake my head. It directly contradicts what Skulsky told reporters at the presser the day before!

Let's get the message straight here guys. Are you selling or aren't you? Who's really in charge of this team? Are you going to leave your Head Coach twisting in the wind (and by extension, your fans?). Or are you going to give him a vote of confidence and let him fulfill his contract?

Ed Willes said it best the other day, ".....Right now this looks like a confused, unsettled organization. And that’s a hard sell in any market."


DH :cool:
Please sell the team, Mr. Braley.

Blitz
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Fri Nov 20, 2015 10:50 am

Makes me not trust Skulsky

A few thoughts.

1. Hope Skulsky does not end up being the majority owner.
2. If Skulsky does become the majority owner, bet he won't be doing any million dollar guaranteed win nights.
3. If Skulsky becomes the owner, Buono's life time contract, if he wants it, likely continues. Slulsky likes icons.
4. No question that Braley should have sold sooner. Buono has devalued this franchise a lot since Ackles passed.
5. Overall, we've been very fortunate to have stability in ownership with Braley. Not sure why Braley would have given Buono a job for life if he wanted it. I highly doubt he became such a successful businessman with guarantees like this in his business operations, outside of the Lions.
6. Whomever takes over ownership had better hire someone very good at marketing. Its going to take a special person like a Bobby Ackles to restore this franchise... and someone who could even come close to Ackles abilities and talents will be more than difficult to find.
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CardiacKid
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Fri Nov 20, 2015 12:41 pm

Thank God! About bloody time! How long has he been floating the fact he wants to sell?!?! Time to piss or get off the pot.

This notion of Braley wanting to sell but not ready to follow through has to be like the Sword of Damocles hanging over everyone's head....Skulsky on down.

I have been glad Braley was there to buy the Lions when he did and I have been glad he was hands-off. I can't stand owners who treat team ownership as a vanity project. Hello Michael Feterik, Gleibermanns, Horn Chen, et al.!

But there have been a number of indications during past seasons and this year in particular, that made me fear Braley was simply attempting to maximize his profit at the expense of the team infrastructure. I have not born witness to any sort of long-term planning or long-term objectives. If he continued to dither with pulling the trigger on selling, I was convinced this team was going the way of the Argos...namely a full-scale revolt by the players and coaches that was narrowly averted.

I am pleasantly surprised at the number of potential suitors. A local ownership group would be great but if the better fit happens to be from elsewhere in Canada, that is fine with me. But please....no Yankee owners and no Aquilinis!

TheLionKing
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Fri Nov 20, 2015 1:32 pm

The_Pauser wrote:Hoping for local ownership, but please keep the team away from Aquilini.
X2

TheLionKing
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Fri Nov 20, 2015 1:34 pm

David wrote:I read this article yesterday in the Globe And Mail and just had to shake my head. It directly contradicts what Skulsky told reporters at the presser the day before!

Let's get the message straight here guys. Are you selling or aren't you? Who's really in charge of this team? Are you going to leave your Head Coach twisting in the wind (and by extension, your fans?). Or are you going to give him a vote of confidence and let him fulfill his contract?

Ed Willes said it best the other day, ".....Right now this looks like a confused, unsettled organization. And that’s a hard sell in any market."


DH :cool:
Sums up the organization quite nicely. Nobody really knows who's in charge. I'm really surprised that there are 19 perspective buyers.

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cromartie
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Fri Nov 20, 2015 1:47 pm

TheLionKing wrote:
David wrote:
Sums up the organization quite nicely. Nobody really knows who's in charge. I'm really surprised that there are 19 perspective buyers.
I'm not. $30 million is only about six times cash flow in a large cosmopolitan market. It's a desirable property, if run properly. Which, at the moment, it isn't on either side of the house.

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CardiacKid
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Fri Nov 20, 2015 3:52 pm

David wrote:I read this article yesterday in the Globe And Mail and just had to shake my head. It directly contradicts what Skulsky told reporters at the presser the day before!

Let's get the message straight here guys. Are you selling or aren't you? Who's really in charge of this team? Are you going to leave your Head Coach twisting in the wind (and by extension, your fans?). Or are you going to give him a vote of confidence and let him fulfill his contract?

Ed Willes said it best the other day, ".....Right now this looks like a confused, unsettled organization. And that’s a hard sell in any market."


DH :cool:
Hmmm...doesn't really bode well for Skulsky. Whether Braley deliberately chose to not communicate to Skulsky what his message was....or because of oversight, omission or whatever.

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Solar Max
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Fri Nov 20, 2015 3:55 pm

Skulsky and Wally out the door. Then the healing can begin. New ownership will no doubt demand it.

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