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The fate of the Ottawa Renegades appears to rest in the hands of a businessman and political insider who served under former prime minister Paul Martin.
Sources said Anthony Primerano, president of Toronto-based Golden Gate Funds (II) Inc., is the driving force behind a potential takeover of the Canadian Football League's Ottawa franchise that went up for sale 12 days ago.
Golden Gate is part of the Golden Gate Capital group of companies that provides financial services through offices in Southern Ontario, Ottawa and Montreal.
It is believed Primerano's company is the only serious suitor for the Renegades, who have been approached by various tire kickers from both sides of the border during the past two weeks. A decision is expected within days.
While the club is projected by many to lose from $5-million to $7-million this season, the potential financial loss in 2006 is apparently not the biggest hurdle.
Sources said with roughly six weeks until the start of training camp, Primerano wants to ensure there is enough time to put together a quality front office and business staff for this season. He also would like to feel confident the football club will be competitive in its fourth season.
That is a matter of some debate within the CFL. Ottawa head coach John Jenkins has pronounced his team the finest group of players he's ever assembled. But there are those around the CFL who are skeptical of that pronouncement from a man who has never served as a head coach in the league before.
It is believed Primerano is likely to hire Eric Tillman, the club's general manager during its first three years who continues to reside in Ottawa. Tillman was approached three weeks ago by Renegades majority owner Bernie Glieberman but avoided striking a deal because of concerns over the franchise's stability.
Though his work address is Bay Street since the last federal election, Primerano spent a large part of the past 15 years in Ottawa working closely with the former minister of Veterans Affairs, Albina Guarnieri, as her chief of staff.
Guarnieri is a long-time Martin loyalist who had a fairly low profile under former prime minister Jean ChrÃ©tien. Martin, however, named her Associate Minister of Defence and Minister of State for Civil Preparedness in his first cabinet. In July of 2004, she moved to Veterans Affairs.
Primerano was known in political circles as a successful fundraiser who helped organize several large and lucrative events for Martin's leadership. One of those, held at Glen Abbey Golf Club in August of 2002, raised $500,000 in a single day.
He recently moved into the financial world. Sources said if he believes the team cannot be resurrected for this season, a plan may be struck to relaunch the CFL club in Ottawa for 2007.
The current Renegades saga began in early February when team president Lonie Glieberman resigned abruptly over disagreements with his father, Bernie, the club's majority owner. Two weeks later, Bernie Glieberman informed the league he was not willing to fund the team through the 2006 season and asked for assistance to do so.
That request was flatly turned down and the club went up for sale on March 22.
Glieberman is apparently willing to hand over the club and its assets, as well as pay back $850,000 in season ticket money, in exchange for a new owner accepting contract obligations for players and coaches.
Current title: President, Golden Gate Funds (II) Inc.
His firm: Golden Gate's parent rovides mortgages, loans, financial and investment planning and financial services and debt management. Golden Gate also acquires troubled manufacturing companies with the aim of turning them around.
Former job: Chief of staff for former veteran affairs minister Albina Guarnieri in the Paul Martin government. He is believed to be a Martin loyalist and fundraiser.
Studied at: University of Western Ontario. Bachelor of arts, political science, 1989.