More than two decades after buying a club that had fallen into bankruptcy, David Braley still loves the idea of owning the B.C. Lions.
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Opinion: Struggling CFL team needs something to change, and what new ownership could offer is a new direction and hopeHAMILTON — Mark Woodall, who doesn’t give up easily, has a plan to buy the B.C. Lions, and it goes like this.A group fronted by Woodall and Moray Keith, both longtime Lions’ supporters, will form a consortium of local business people similar to the group that bought the Edmonton Oilers in the late 1990s. In the Woodall-Keith plan, 100 shares will be sold at $200,000 a pop, raising $20 million. Eight to 10 million of that will go towards buying the Lions from current owner David Braley. The remaining $10 million or so will be plowed into the team’s operation.Woodall believes the broad base of local ownership will help energize the Lions. In a perfect world, the CFL franchise would be sold to one big wallet who’d cover costs the way Braley has covered them since ’97.But in the Lions’ world, it’s hard to convince a prudent business person to commit $20 million to a team that faces the challenges the Lions face.“People don’t want to invest $10 million in the Lions,” said Woodall, who made his bones in the insurance game. “But if we can get 20 or 30 local people, we believe it will create massive enthusiasm in the market.”While hardly ideal, the Woodall-Keith proposal has the potential to answer a lot of questions facing the Lions. It would provide local ownership. It would bring fresh ideas to a franchise that could use a new approach. Most importantly, it would provide a face to the Lions’ operation.There’s just one question: Does Braley really want to sell the Lions? We’ve been asking that for a while.“We’re all frustrated because we want to see what’s best for the franchise,” Woodall said.
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If you’ve just joined us, and count yourself lucky if you are, the Lions’ never-ending story has been around since the mid-aughts and, with the odd exception, hasn’t changed a lot over the last 15 years.There’s a suggestion the Lions will sell. Local concerns express their interest. Braley then sets the price at an unreasonable level or pulls back or, a couple of years ago, uses the facade of the concussion lawsuits against the CFL to hold back the sale.Whatever the case, the Lions end up in the same place, an ownership limbo in which the life force is being sucked out of the franchise. Woodall, for his part, has been chasing the Lions for the last five years and you can’t blame the man for growing tired of this exercise.So what’s different this time around?Maybe nothing. Braley, the Hamilton-based industrialist/philanthropist still loves the idea of owning the Lions and is still engaged in the team and the league. On Saturday, he met with team president Rick LeLacheur and general manager Ed Hervey at his home in the Hamilton area, and the sale of the club wasn’t discussed.But Braley’s health has also become an issue. Now 78, his mobility is limited and, while he remains sharp according to those who come in contact with him, it’s in spurts. He didn’t attend the Lions’ 35-34 loss to the Tiger-Cats on Saturday night.It’s fallen to LeLacheur to broker the sale of the team and the Lions’ president declined to comment on the state of the transaction. Still, sources suggest the interested parties will be drawn together — real-estate developer Robert Bosa remains in the mix — at the conclusion of this season and the sale will be discussed.That will be an interesting discussion. Two years ago, Woodall and Keith presented Braley with an offer in the $14-million range that was rejected. That’s when the concussion howler was brought out.NEXT GAMEThursdayB.C. Lions at Winnipeg Blue Bombers5:30 p.m., Investors Group Field, TV: TSN; Radio: TSN 1040 AMThe value of the franchise has since fallen precipitously. Attendance has dropped every season but one since the Lions last won the Grey Cup in 2011. They have six home dates left this season, but they’re currently 1-7, which isn’t the best marketing tool for a struggling team.It’s also hard to know what a CFL team should go for these days. Five years ago Ottawa came in for about $9 million. There’s some hope the sale of the Montreal Alouettes would help set some parameters for the Lions’ sale but the Als represent a unique set of circumstances. Riddled with debt and currently owned by the league, sources suggest the Alouettes will be sold for a song if an investor or group of investors demonstrate the ability to operate the franchise over the long term.It’s also possible the Als could declare bankruptcy to alleviate their debt and help expedite the sale process.Either way, it’s not going to make a great deal of difference to the Lions. You can also ask if new, local ownership is going to make a difference to this team, but one thing is certain.The Lions need something to change. A new ownership group isn’t going to make their challenges disappear, but it has a chance to offer a new direction and new hope..Right now, the Lions need email@example.com/willesonsports CLICK HERE to report a typo. Is there more to this story? We’d like to hear from you about this or any other stories you think we should know about. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.