Moment of truth facing 'Gades as 1 Buyer interested **

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The latest talks in the bid to keep professional football alive in Ottawa for the 2006 season will continue today.

It's believed the three-person search committee the Canadian Football League appointed to oversee the transfer of the Renegades to a new ownership group -- if one can be found in time and with the financial wherewithal and the will to take over the team and run it this year -- worked vigorously on the weekend to help facilitate a deal and will provide an update to all the teams.

With training camps set to open in less than two months, one source suggested the next 72 hours are critical in making some kind of decision.

That could mean extending the timetable by a few more days -- likely Friday at the latest --- if the right ownership group for the franchise is in place.

Rumours continue that one group in particular has a strong desire to do something and has solid financial backing, but has no previous experience in sports management.

STAFF DECISIONS

There's also the decision of whether to keep the Renegades football operation staff managed by Forrest Gregg and coach John Jenkins.

If the ownership group cannot be put in place within the next week, CFL commissioner Tom Wright will announce the suspension of the franchise for at least the 2006 season and an immediate dispersal draft of the team's players, likely next week.

One option is for the league to operate the team and have it play its home games on the road while continuing to put an ownership in place.

That idea had been explored -- but not acted on -- with Toronto and Hamilton when the two teams were taken over by the league in 2003 after their respective ownerships failed to continue paying their bills.

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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 Chrétien. 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.

ANTHONY PRIMERANO

Age: 40

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.

let the team suspend and the new ownership start from scratch.

I disagree Kanga. Starting from scratch next year would be worse than being slow out of the gate this year.

i wonder if this Primerano guy is the guy the argo owners brought to the table?....cuz if he is, and he DOES buy the gades, then he will probably be a tom wright supporter aswell.

You make a good point DG. I guess we'll know by the end of the week.

You want to start as an expansion team all over again? I sure don't.

me niether....not in the same city again.

That would be pretty awful.

Its either play this year, or never play again in my opinion. I don't think Ottawa could handle another expansion like setup, which is what will happen if the team is suspended for a year. And also I don't like it when expansion teams get to raid other teams, thus disrupting other teams as well.

if they do suspend play for the '06 season, then the CFL should sell to that Quebec guy who wants to move the team there....thus making it an expansion team.

not QC, have Ottawa start over again. That to me is just the way to go at this point.

what's done is done Ottawa, take a year off, start all over again in 07.

Agree with you Billy, the league must prop up the team at the worst if they hope to save football in Ottawa.
You cannot go away, "out of sight and out of mind", and expect the buying public to buy another expansion scenario.

Dude, it happened with Chicago and the NBA, and look where the thrid ex team there is now, has a few NBA championships under it's belt.

I CAN and WILL happen for Ottawa!

Again ... Kanga ... there's much more to this than red and gold uniforms for Ottawa (which I'm pretty sure is the main reason you want a new ownership to start from scratch ... so as to bring those unis back). If the Renegades don't play this year, I think football is pretty much done in the Capital. They may have a chance at resurrecting in QC, but that's it ... screwing the fans over by suspending the team for a year is NO good for Ottawa football. I think the League has to support the team this year if no owner is found by the end of the week ... it sounds like there ARE interested people out there, which leads me to believe that an owner WOULD be found by the end of this season at the latest.

and it is unfair for the fans they want football you can see it too it the ownership that made it go down the drain, i support the fans i dont blame em

Agreed. An owner WILL be found. I would suggest that the CFL prop up the Gades like they did Toronto and Hamilton. Its become evident that the Glieberman ownership group was a major reason why the public were soured on the club. A new group could turn things around. As well, I don't want the CFL to panic and bring in another ownership group that may end up being worse for the Gades.

Vote to have the League keep the franchise going and continue to pursue a group at a relaxed pace. If the Gades' fans start showing up to games under the confidence of a CFL ownership then it would make the club even more attractive to a potential bidder.

why play half handed and lose money this season when they can take the season off, regroup and reorganises, loses $0 this season, and play all brand new next season?

Ottawa supported them when they can back in 2002, why not in 2007?

Everytime there's leak of a new potential buyer, the media harasses him and they then say they're no longer interested, or likely won't be. Once again, it happens:

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TORONTO businessman Ernest Anderson is kicking the tires, but he may not be the saviour fans of the Ottawa Renegades are waiting for.

Anderson owns the Toronto operation of Golden Gate Capital and runs a subsidiary office in Mississauga. Golden Gate Capital deals in mutual funds, personal and corporate mortgages, and insurance.

The firm has several offices in the GTA and recently opened a bureau on Moodie Dr. in Ottawa. It also runs satellite operations in Quebec City and two locations in the U.S.

Anderson did not return phone calls from the Sun yesterday, but Anthony Primerano of Golden Gate confirmed the company's interest in the Renegades.

"We are overwhelmed by the public and media interest in Golden Gate's preliminary discussions with the Canadian Football League on the acquisition of the Ottawa Renegades," Primerano said in an e-mail sent to the Sun.

"It is, however, very early in the process and much too premature to predict the outcome of our discussions. Any potential involvement will have to be right for the people of Ottawa, the CFL and our company."

One report yesterday said the fate of the Renegades depended on the bid from Golden Gate. But a league source said it's unlikely Golden Gate will buy the team. The CFL says several "organizations" are examining a takeover of the Renegades.

"As we go forward, I am committed to providing our fans in Ottawa-Gatineau with information on the state of their team as soon as we are able to do so," said CFL commissioner Tom Wright in a statement issued by the league last night directed specifically at Renegades fans.

Wright said a decision on the club's future would be "forthcoming by mid-month."

It remains possible that the Renegades could operate in 2006 if a buyer is soon found. But if a buyer isn't found, the league would likely operate with eight teams.

That prospect is attractive to some potential buyers who want to move the Renegades to another city, notably Quebec City, for 2007.

But time is running short on the prospects of the team playing at Frank Clair Stadium this year.

Even if a deal in completed within the next week, getting a team ready won't be a slam dunk.

Training camps begin in a little more than six weeks and the league's college draft will be held April 20. It's believed several CFL teams are preparing for a dispersal draft of Renegades.

The team's football operations staff, led by GM Forrest Gregg and coach John Jenkins, insists the football side is ready to go.

But the Globe and Mail’s article is more encouraging than the Sun’s (geez, what else is new):

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Canadian Football League governors were told during a conference call yesterday that a possible sale of the Ottawa Renegades will take a least another week, pushing a final decision on the franchise's future to within five weeks of training camp.

The league released a statement yesterday stating it was continuing to negotiate with several parties interested in taking over the Renegades, which went up for sale on March 22.

It is believed, however, that the primary bidder is financial company Golden Gate Capital, represented by Anthony Primerano, a businessman and former chief of staff for a cabinet minister in former prime minister Paul Martin’s government.

Primerano has been in discussions with the league for more than a week with the goal of operating the team during the 2006 season. His group is planning to spend a few more days investigating the Renegades’ prospects before reaching a decision later in the week.

The Globe and Mail reported Monday that his decision will hinge on whether he believes the Renegades can put together a decent operation and field a competitive team with the season so close.

“We are overwhelmed by the public and media interest in Golden Gate’s preliminary discussions with the Canadian Football League on the acquisition of the Ottawa Renegades,” Primerano said in a statement. “It is, however, very early in the process and much too premature to predict the outcome of our discussions. Any potential involvement will have to be right for the people of Ottawa, the CFL and our company.”

The Renegades won seven games in their fourth season a year ago but once again failed to make the playoffs. During the off-season, the team has been quiet in the free-agent market, concentrating its efforts on a series of free-agent camps operated in the United States by head coach John Jenkins. The schedule for those camps was suspended a week ago with the team’s future up in the air.

While Jenkins could remain as head coach if the Renegades are sold, it’s expected a new owner would not retain general manager Forrest Gregg. A source said Primerano is likely to hire former general manager Eric Tillman, who continues to live in Ottawa. Tillman, as of yesterday, had not been contacted by anyone from Golden Gate.

If negotiations with Golden Gate fall through and no other buyer steps forward, the CFL is expected to suspend or fold the Renegades next week.

Golden Gate Capital is a Canadian mortgage-origination company based in Toronto with offices throughout Ontario and Montreal. It’s believed the company is interested in the CFL as a way to increase exposure for its brand name.

Renegades majority owner Bernie Glieberman is apparently willing to sell the team for $1 if a deal can be closed in time to save the 2006 season.

Sources said the league and Glieberman yesterday were negotiating to clean up details that would facilitate a sale.