Waiting game

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:28 AM ET

A Calgary Stampeders fan, visibly frustrated by the process, recently offered an impatient man's view of the haggling over this city's floundering football franchise.

"Why don't local investors just BUY THE DAMN TEAM ALREADY and let all of us get on with being fans again," the passionate bystander hollered via e-mail.

If only it were that easy. Although key players within the CFL's power structure have quietly nodded in agreement the Stampeders need to return to local ownership, the process is much messier than cleaning up your den after a Grey Cup party.

First, there's the issue of price, with current owner Michael Feterik apparently asking substantially more than he paid just three years ago.

Fans who've bothered to open a newspaper or attend a game during that span know the franchise isn't exactly enjoying unbridled success.

How could the team possibly be worth more today on the open market than back when it was considered the league's flagship franchise with the respected Wally Buono at the helm?

Is the USS Arizona worth more today, riddled with holes and nestled on the bottom of Pearl Harbor, than it was a half-century ago before an attack from Japanese warplanes? Didn't think so.

Even after meeting on price, buying a professional sports franchise is a complicated transaction although the deal appears straightforward.

It took Feterik, a California businessman, several months to close with Sig Gutsche back in 2001. Now a potential deal has only gotten more sticky under the current regime.

There's former COO Fred Fateri's messy lawsuits against Feterik and the Stamps in which depositions are being taken.

Dismiss Fateri if you like but his two Calgary lawyers obviously feel Feterik's former friend has a strong claim to ownership of at least a small portion of the club.

Would buyers need to settle Fateri's claim before finalizing a deal or is it Feterik's problem to deal the suit, even if he sells the Stampeders?

There's also the pricey matter of severance for employees under long-term contracts.

Even if Feterik and local interests can agree on a price, clearing up guaranteed contracts could be an expensive process.

President Ron Rooke and GM-head coach Matt Dunigan fall into that category should would-be buyers choose to clear out the front office, with both reportedly having two years left on their contracts. Typically, new proprietors want their own people in positions of power, pulling the strings and answering directly to those investors now paying the bills.

It's also been suggested Feterik is poised for a windfall due to a strengthened loonie should he sell the Stamps for the same amount he paid three years ago.

But Feterik might be trying to wring every nickel out of a potential sale to pay the interest on money borrowed from a U.S. bank to buy the team. In that scenario, Feterik could be paying more than $1 million US in interest over the last three years, cutting into any profit he would reap.

The bottom line is, although prospective buyers would love to get their hands on the team, the process can be drawn out and expensive.

Said one local businessman, eager to finalize a deal but experienced in the procedure: "Patience is a virtue." It's an axiom worth remembering for everyone involved, fans included.


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