The Hunt is on for CFL bidders

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 1:12 PM ET

He's been staring at the thing for a couple of months now, prodding and poking and checking it over from every possible angle.

And just days from his first formal meeting with the CFL's new franchise committee, Jeff Hunt is realizing how very much he likes what he sees.

"The more and more I've thought about this project and the more people I've spoken with, the more I'm convinced an Ottawa team can be a great asset to the CFL and can be very successful in this market," Hunt, the frontman for the Golden Gate Capital Corp. bid to bring football back to the nation's capital, said from his home yesterday.

"People will get behind this in a dramatic way."

Hunt and Golden Gate Capital CEO Anthony Primerano have been invited to sit down with the league's new franchise committee this Thursday afternoon in Toronto. Likely, the two other groups interested in owning a team in Ottawa will also go before a braintrust that includes Ticats owner Bob Young, Argos owner Howard Sokolowski, Stamps president Ted Hellard and CFL commissioner Tom Wright the same day.

The groups -- one fronted by former CFL player Bill Palmer, the other by food and beverage entrepreneur Frank D'Angelo -- are considered solid second and third options in polls of public opinion and logic.

But Hunt is clearly the people's choice.

Quoting an unnamed CFL executive, a columnist in one recent publication handicapped the bids, putting Palmer's at 7-to-1 and D'Angelo's at 17-to-1.

Hunt and Primerano were given a 3-to-1 shot at emerging from the process with a team.

Hunt expects Thursday's meeting to be a "relatively informal, chance to get to know each other exercise."

He figures there will be a lot of questions about his groups strategy and that the league will continue to do its due diligence on Golden Gate Capital and its wherewithal.

$10-MILLION BOND

Part of the Golden Gate Capital bid includes a $10-million bond that has been put on the table to serve as something of a security deposit.

The CFL requested smaller yet firm statements of wealth and commitment from each of the groups -- on top of a $3.5-million franchise fee.

Asked if his group was willing to pony up that type of franchise fee, Hunt tiptoed around the issue.

FEE NO DEAL BREAKER

"I'm not sure it will come up in this interview," he said. "I think it's probably premature to talk compensation until you decide on a candidate ... but if they do have a desire to discuss it, obviously we will. Like I've said all along, I don't think the franchise fee will be a deal breaker. I think we'll find a way to satisfy both parties."

Hunt also expects more meetings will follow before the league makes a decision on which of the groups it wants to welcome into the fraternity. If the way this process is moving so slowly isn't enough, that should further suggest to fans that the CFL doesn't plan on returning to Ottawa before 2008 -- even though someone like Hunt wouldn't appear to need a lot of preparation time as he already has a solid season ticket base and a multitude of corporate partners as owner of the 67's.

"This is more of an initial interview," said Hunt. "I'm looking forward to it ... it's going to be interesting.

"I think the CFL has never been more solid than it is today. It's not like they're desperate ... they can afford to be diligent and prudent and very selective. They're going to do this right."


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