Leave it to Gliebermans

MIKE ULMER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:18 AM ET

Harold Ballard had been cryonically unfrozen and is mounting a takeover to wrest control of Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment Ltd. from the Teachers.

"I made some mistakes," the reborn Harold said. "I want to leave a legacy and clear up my name."

There. Now you know how they feel in Ottawa.

Any day now, Lonie Glieberman and his dad, Bernie, will announce themselves as the new owners of the Ottawa Renegades.

There is no one else. It's either the Gliebermans or the CFL. They have the money, some $100 million in real estate winnings. They have a general manager, 71-year-old Forrest Gregg, on a personal services contract that pays him a reported six-figure salary. He has been on retainer for a decade and is itching to start earning it.

They are in it, Lonie insists, to recast the family name.

"We'd like to have the chance to clear the record," Glieberman said. "We want the chance to go out on top."

On top. Might as well.

In a league that has included a lunatic, Ballard (Hamilton), a hermit, Horn Chen (Ottawa), a father who seemed to have bought the team to install his son at quarterback, Michael Feterik (Calgary) and Sherwood Schwarz, who gave Toronto J. I. Albrecht and John Huard, Lonie and Bernie Glieberman remain the gold standard for offbeat CFL ownership.

The Gliebermans of Detroit swept into the capital in 1991 and although it would be an exaggeration to say they are well remembered, they are certainly remembered well.

They bought the club from the league for a buck and delivered a 9-9 season in their first year. The following season, they went 4-14. The Gliebermans brought in Dexter Manley, high priest of the failed NFL drug test. They talked about hiring Mike Ditka to coach.

Mistakes were made, Lonie admits.

"The biggest was firing (general manager) Dan Rambo. I was told something at a player's wedding and it (the firing) was done a couple of hours later. I learned you can't make quick decisions and before you act, you need to get all the facts. Every other mistake flowed from that one."

The Gliebermans began threatening to relocate the club almost as soon as they bought it. There were lawsuits with the city, "we won but nobody mentions that," Lonie said.

The Gliebermans sold the franchise to Bruce Firestone for $1.85 million and then beat it for an expansion team in Louisiana. That didn't pan out and in Virginia, their next stop, they earned the distinction of being fired by the city they did business in.

The Gliebermans moved the team in 1993 but after two seasons, the cities of Norfolk and Virginia Beach said the club wasn't welcome. In the inevitable lawsuit, Bernie Glieberman was ordered to pay back a $1-million loan from the city plus $375,000 in interest.

Bernie's 1948 Tucker Torpedo car was impounded, pending payment of a $273,932 debt to the suppliers of a new scoreboard. The car, driven by the senior Glieberman's lawyer, famously, ran out of gas.

Lonie Glieberman insists the family would be good owners in Ottawa and at the very least, wouldn't be as bad as some of the others.

"If you compare us with Horn Chen or Bruce Firestone, we were better than them."

There is no one else with as much to spend, and, apparently, as much to prove as the Gliebermans.

The Renegades franchise has lost $10 million the past three years.

In Ottawa, they haven't had a winning football team in 33 years. They haven't had a Stanley Cup winner since 1927 and when they finally signed Dominik Hasek, their best goalie since Clint Benedict, the season was cancelled.

Being a sports fan in the capital shows no sign of getting easier.

It will soon, however, get a whole lot more interesting.


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