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The Ottawa Renegades chart a new course today minus team president Lonie Glieberman, but facing as much instability as ever.
The Canadian Football League club's ownership, near-term stewardship, and future leadership are uncertain with training camp less than three months away. For the moment, competing visions from the business and football sides of the operation threaten to poison a third successive season on the field.
Yesterday, the saga took another escalating turn as fan-flashpoint Lonie Glieberman left his day-to-day role with the organization. In so doing, he raised the most pertinent question of all, encouraging the public to visit the Renegades' website (www.ottawarenegades.net) and to deliver a verdict on his father Bernie's ownership.
"Is he the problem or do you support him? Right now, he has mixed feelings as to whether he is the problem," Lonie asked. "Bernie is fully committed if he feels people here want him to be the owner. He doesn't want to do this if he is viewed as the enemy."
The top-level rumbling is heightening concern, and possibly activism, at the CFL office.
Already, several discussions have been held with former Toronto Argonauts and Blue Jays executive Bob Nicholson, whom many stakeholders believe is a star candidate capable of restoring credibility and re-making the Renegades' image.
During league meetings last week in Toronto, commissioner Tom Wright hinted the league's "help and resources" were coming to Bernie Glieberman and minority owner Bill Smith. Smith supported Nicholson when he was offered the chief executive's role with the Renegades in late 2003, but the position ultimately went to John Lisowski, who now serves as Bernie Glieberman's advisor.
Nicholson is the Washington Nationals' vice-president of finance and chief financial officer. The Nationals are owned by Major League Baseball and are up for sale.
The matter of hiring the Renegades' future mouthpiece must wait until Bernie Glieberman speaks, his sensibilities and wallet having been brought to the ultimate test. The Renegades stand to lose at least $2 million in 2006, and the Frank Clair Stadium show will no longer be of Lonie's making.
Bernie Glieberman, who is in Costa Rica on other business, lost confidence in his son's ability to operate and market the football team, and he is also contemplating the role of Renegades general manager Forrest Gregg, a longtime friend. The millionaire builder is generally benevolent, but he wants the Renegades to resemble a business and not one of the many charities he supports in his native Detroit.
"Bernie and Bill Smith, if they could keep their losses to $1 million, would run the team forever," Lisowski said.
For more than a decade, prevailing street logic has suggested that Bernie purchased the Rough Riders, Shreveport Pirates and Renegades for Lonie's gratification and that, minus a blood-bond, his interest would wane. Glieberman has denied that scenario, and he also spoke about correcting his only failed business venture (the CFL) after purchasing the Renegades last June.
Also at that time, Lonie Glieberman pledged he had matured and learned from previous mistakes. Almost immediately, and amid vast opposition, he implemented a business-model adopted from the family's Michigan ski resort.
"Fans are upset with me, some people in the organization are upset with me, the league office is likely upset with me, and, more importantly, my father is quite frustrated," Lonie Glieberman said.
"What is best for the organization is that we bring in a CEO."
Glieberman is also hoping to serve as martyr and will try to convince his father to retain Gregg and head coach John Jenkins above all else and to hire former general manager Eric Tillman to aid with football and public relations.
Lisowski and Phil Kershaw, part-time consultants to Bernie Glieberman, had recommended replacing both Lonie and Gregg, and they want no part of Tillman.
Both have said they have no desire to be club president, but, for now Lisowski and Kershaw will run the club's business affairs.
Lonie Glieberman and the league office will exert pressure on Bernie Glieberman to change the structure quickly, however, knowing that divisions between the consultants and football operations could compound the team's problems.
That feud was fuelled Wednesday, when Jenkins charged that Lisowski and Kershaw were trying to "disillusion" fans by "undermining" existing leadership.
For fans, everything from the team's television policy to its free-agency plan to ticket prices could change. Lisowski said the team was considering blacking out telecasts of home games this season.
The $99 season-ticket sale this spring will proceed, but available tickets will be restricted to the south-side upper-deck, according to Lisowski, who has always supported higher game-day ticket prices than Lonie Glieberman.
Another matter is training camp. Lisowski wants to take the team to CFB Petawawa, provided media coverage would follow, while Gregg and Jenkins are pushing for sites in the city or at Kemptville College
Lisowski is an IDIOT if he blacks out the games...IDIOT