Gate's open with Hunt

Jeff Hunt is one of three bidders for the CFL's return to Ottawa. (Ottawa Sun File/Sean Kilpatrick)

Jeff Hunt is one of three bidders for the CFL's return to Ottawa. (Ottawa Sun File/Sean Kilpatrick)

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 10:04 AM ET

All three wannabe owners of a CFL team in the nation's capital met requirements by submitting a "letter of interest" to the league offices yesterday.

Now Ottawa football fan must patiently wait an unspecified period as the information is digested -- all the while hoping that what appears to be the logical choice is ultimately made.

"There is no deadline or time limit," Ted Hellard, the chairman of the CFL's franchise committee, said in a statement confirming the league had received "letters of interest" from all three of the prospective purchasers. "When a decision has been finalized, an announcement will be made."

From the outside looking in, this figures to be a no-brainer.

In fact, there are some who believe that Toronto financial services company Golden Gate Capital Corporation -- which is fronted by popular and successful 67's owner Jeff Hunt -- should be less concerned about the other two groups than whether the eight voting CFL owners want to take another gamble on Ottawa.

Bill Palmer, the father of new Montreal Alouettes practice roster quarterback Jesse Palmer, is a former Ottawa Rough Rider star who has made his mark on the business world. The vice-president of an Indianapolis construction company, he leads a group of between 8-10 American investors, some of whom are said to have a stake in a minor-league baseball franchise. None of them live -- or have stated interests -- in Ottawa.

OUTRAGEOUS SHOWMAN

Partnered with one of Canada's wealthiest men in Dr. Barry Sherman, Toronto food-and-beverage entrepreneur Frank D'Angelo represents the other group. D'Angelo is an outrageous showman and self-promoter -- and seems to be exactly the kind of guy the CFL wants to avoid if it is taking what would have to be one final shot at Ottawa.

Hunt, meanwhile, is precisely what the doctor ordered.

The transplanted Newfoundlander is a pillar of the community. Upon selling the largest carpet cleaning company in Canada, he emerged as one of the most successful junior hockey owners ever. Hunt has turned the Civic Centre into an arena where 10,000 fans show up to watch a team that used to attract 1,500, at the same time taking the 67's to three Memorial Cups (winning one) in his eight years.

While Golden Gate Capital shareholders would be the principle owner of the football team, there would be just one boss: Corporation CEO Anthony Primerano, an Ottawa resident for 15 years who has a political background. Hunt would have a minority share and operate the team as president.

"This process has forced us to really get to know each other ... I have found (Primerano) extremely easy to deal with," Hunt, who believes his group met all league requests, said of the 77-page package his group had at the CFL office by 4:30 p.m. yesterday.

What was viewed as a possibly contentious $3.5-million franchise fee won't be a problem, Hunt believes.

"I'm confident it won't be a stumbling block," Hunt said. "I'm confident it is something that can be worked out."

The biggest advantage the Golden Gate bid has over the others is an existing infrastructure. With the 67's, Hunt already has 5,000 season-ticket holders, thousands of group contracts and hundreds of corporate sponsors.

In Ottawa, the Palmer and D'Angelo groups would be starting from scratch.

"Obviously, it's a major element in our bid," Hunt said.

Hunt figures he'd have to hire "7-8" key people to complement the 20-22 full-time, year-round staff he has now. His right-hand man with the 67's -- president and CEO Pat Whalen -- would be as valuable an asset to the football team.

"Everything in sport flows from ticket sales, from putting people in the building, and Pat is an enormous resource in that department," said Hunt, who will target families and children, a la the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, should Golden Gate land the team.

"There are eight outstanding franchises in the CFL and there's a lot to be learned from each one of them. We'll look at every best practice out there and try to incorporate it in the Ottawa franchise.

NEED 'NEW FAN BASE'

"Are there enough football fans (in Ottawa) to make this work? Not right now," he added. "We have to cultivate new fans. Unless we can create a new fan base, it won't succeed."

Hunt believes he can do just that.

"Personally, I'm looking forward to an opportunity to (have) dialogue with (the CFL)," he said. "To offer some colour to what we've put into print. The (letter of interest) was like a resume. It's not going to get you hired, but you're hoping it gets you an interview."


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