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Clifford Starke sends CFL amended offer to purchase Montreal Alouettes


Clifford Starke has jumped back into the Montreal Alouettes' ownership picture.

The Montreal businessman told The Canadian Press on Wednesday he has sent CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie an amended purchase offer for the Alouettes. Last month, Starke announced his intent to buy the team and made an offer before falling out of the running for the franchise.

The Alouettes are now being run by the CFL, which took over ownership May 31 from American businessman Bob Wetenhall and his son, Andrew.

"I've shown more than enough financial backing, with cash or securities, to give comfort to the entire board of governors," Starke said in a telephone interview. "There's no question about our financial ability, there are no issues financially at all.

"I've emailed it directly to Randy Ambrosie with a couple of changes in the term sheet."

The CFL wasn't immediately available for comment.

Starke, 35, is the chair of Hampstead Private Capital and has acted as a consultant, adviser and/or director to more than 15 publicly listed companies.

According to a league source, Montreal natives Peter and Jeffrey Lenkov head up a partnership that's currently doing its due diligence on the Alouettes. Peter Lenkov, 55, is a producer in Hollywood while Jeffrey Lenkov, 53, is a lawyer practising in California.

The source was granted anonymity because he's not authorized to speak on the deal.

Starke also said he has a definite candidate in mind to head up the Alouettes' organization but wouldn't specifically say who that would be.

"Read between the lines about who I'll bring back to the community," he said.

A prime candidate would be Larry Smith, the former Alouettes player who twice served as the club's president. Smith was instrumental in gaining the franchise a foothold within the francophone community, making over 200 appearances annually throughout Quebec promoting the team's brand as the club's top executive.

There was also consistency on the Alouettes’ active roster during that time with such players as Anthony Calvillo, slotback Ben Cahoon, offensive lineman Scott Flory and kicker Damon Duval. Montreal's lineup also featured a number of francophone players such as running backs Eric Lapointe and Bruno Heppell, receiver Eric Deslauriers and safety Etienne Boulay, to name a few.

Montreal also had front-office stability as Jim Popp served as GM/football-operations director from 1996-2016. Popp is entering his third season as Toronto's GM, building a Grey Cup-winning team in 2017.

The formula worked. During Smith's front-office tenure, Montreal registered 105 straight sellouts at Molson Stadium, which has a seating capacity of roughly 23,500.

What's more, Smith's son, Brad — a former CFL receiver with Toronto and Edmonton — is also a consultant with Starke's group.

Starke and Brad Smith grew up together in Montreal in the 2000s attending Alouettes games during a time when the team was a CFL powerhouse. From 2000 to 2010, the franchise appeared in eight Grey Cup games, winning three.

After overseeing the relocation of the Baltimore Stallions to Montreal following the 1996 season as CFL commissioner, Larry Smith became Alouettes president in 1997. He held that post until 2001 before serving as president and publisher of the Montreal Gazette from 2002-2004.

Smith returned to the Alouettes and remained until 2010, the last time the franchise captured the Grey Cup. He's currently the leader of the opposition in the Canadian senate.

But these are troubled times for Montreal, which hasn't been to the Grey Cup since 2010. The Alouettes have missed the CFL playoffs the last four seasons and amassed a 21-51 record over that span.

On Saturday, the Alouettes parted ways with head coach Mike Sherman. Offensive co-ordinator Khari Jones was promoted to interim head coach with Montreal slated to open its season Friday night in Edmonton.

Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press

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