Hugh Campbell will have one less title but no less clout with the Grey Cup champion Eskimos in 2006 as the slow, careful handoff of authority to Rick LeLacheur continued on Thursday.
Campbell ceded the title of club president to LeLacheur, who runs the business end of the operation and remains chief operating officer, while the Hall of Famer remains the Eskimos' chief executive officer and is the undisputed top football man.
"To me, I see it as a nothing deal," Campbell said at the club's annual general meeting. "I don't have any new job, I have exactly the same job that I've had.
"I think it's just more reflective of what everybody else in the league is doing. They have a CEO or an owner that is treated one way and there's a Presidents' Council of people that are not the football people.
"A year ago, Rick was elected (Council Chair) of the presidents' council when he wasn't our president. By making him president, it just feels better for me."
Asked if the public would be off-base in perceiving this as part of a gradual exit for Campbell, he said: "Well, I'm always one year closer to getting out, but I don't know exactly when that will be.
"I had a real good time the last several years -- all the years I've been here -- but with Rick here it's really been good for me. We're working well together."
LeLacheur said he did not foresee any significant change in the working relationship between the two, even if Campbell is away from the office more and more.
"I think the value of Hugh Campbell is not being at the office eight or 10 hours a day," LeLacheur said. "He can have more value to me in a 10-minute conversation that would be worth well more than him spending a week or two at the office.
"But at the end of the day, the CEO is still the boss -- and he's the CEO."
It's little wonder the CEO and the president had such a splendid time in 2006. The club's report to the shareholders demonstrated that not only did the Grey Cup champions have the last laugh on the field in 2005, they were laughing at the gate, at the merchandise kiosks, on the balance sheet and all the way to their investment banker.
Yes, the club's payroll ka-chinged to CFL-high of $4.1 million, largely because of the $450,000 salary paid to quarterback Ricky Ray. Not only is the Edmonton payroll over the CFL's newly installed salary management system upper limit, it gazes smirkingly down at the previous cap of $2.6 million few in the league took seriously.
"We're over (the cap)," LeLacheur said. "There's no question that we're over.
"Right from the start we've said that we're committed to working towards (getting under the cap). Will we get there? I'm not sure yet. But all of our discussions, player contract-wise, are with that in mind."
Getting under the cap would certainly be a nice gesture toward the rest of the league and to CFL commissioner Tom Wright, for whom the salary management system was a pet project. But it's not as if the club is hurting for cash. The club reported a net operating profit for 2005 of $163,839 on revenues of $12,620,271, up from $11,414,840 from 2004.
The Eskimos Stabilization Fund, sort of a club-directed Heritage Fund, earned an investment return of $544,749, growing the fund to $7,899,037 as of Dec. 31, 2005, compared with $7,354,288 at year-end 2004. The $6.1-million net profit earned from the sale of the old Triple-A Trappers, in other words, is a gift that keeps on giving.
In a season in which the up-and-down Eskimos did not play host to a post-season game, attendance increased by 36,226 to 414,644, averaging about 41,000 per game.
Game-day ticket sales were up $415,000 to just over $2 million, and sponsorship revenue -- a major growth area under LeLacheur's business stewardship -- was up $615,000 to just under $2.5 million, an increase of 33 per cent. Team merchandise sales grew by $47,000 to just under $200,000.
Advancing to the Grey Cup meant ringing up expenses to the tune of $475,431 for things like travel costs for players and their families and championship rings. Not that anyone was complaining.
And it appears fan access to the Commonwealth cashbox will be upgraded for 2006 -- at no cost to the Eskimos. LeLacheur said the city has approved money from its capital budget to move the north fence back to the property line -- north of the big scoreboard, in other words. The plan is to add extra gates on the northeast corner, where LeLacheur said about 65 per cent of the Eskimos fans pour into the Stadium.