January 30, 2012
Rudge to pump up Argos brandNew President a savvy go-getter
By FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency
TORONTO - In Chris Rudge’s world, no challenge is too daunting, no hurdle is insurmountable and no excuses are accepted.
When it comes to movers and shakers in both the corporate and sporting universe, Rudge has few peers because very few combine his sense of savvy, experience, timing and executing what needs to be done.
If anyone can help resuscitate the Argos brand in a market where three-down football has been stepped on in recent years, it’s Rudge, a salesman, visionary and go-getter who leaves no stone unturned in his pursuit of getting the job done.
And the job he’s been given, an appointment that was first leaked once Toronto’s disappointing season had been completed back in November, is no small task.
But if there’s anyone up for the task, it’s the well-connected and highly revered Rudge, who wears the mantle of sporting executive as comfortably as one of his finely tailored suits.
“I’m excited for the opportunity,’’ enthused Rudge on Monday, a day when Argos owner David Braley announced that Rudge would essentially assume the day-to-day operations of the CFL franchise. “The Argos are a storied franchise with a rich tradition in Toronto. And we want to recapture that by getting people engaged.”
It’s sad that a good guy such as Bob Nicholson stepped down from his post as Argos president and chief executive officer, a guy who was dealt such a bad hand when he returned to the club for the second time in 2009 that nothing could be salvaged.
But the Argos of 2009 are now a memory, the timing of every off-season move this year so perfect that not even Rudge could have scripted it.
From Scott Milanovich’s hiring as head coach, to the acquisition of a legitimate quarterback in Ricky Ray to Rudge’s hire as executive chairman and CEO, the Argos continue to build momentum.
Not even last month’s fire that gutted part of the team’s practice facility could stop the off-season roll the Argos have been enjoying.
Speaking of which, the fire will not force the Argos to abandon their Mississauga-based complex at U of T’s Erindale campus with word that the affected trailer that housed the team’s coaching staff will be replaced in March.
With free agency looming and GM Jim Barker unafraid to pull the trigger on deals, expect more from the Argos, which suits Rudge just fine.
Say what you want about Rudge, but he’s no dummy.
He knows his business and knows when to stay out of other people’s business.
As he likes to point out, all anyone with the Argos need do is ask what tools are required and Rudge will oblige. It’s this attitude and Rudge’s presence on a day-to-day basis that should inspire long-suffering fans of the beleaguered franchise, or at least provide hope of better days.
Rudge will continue to oversee the 100th Grey Cup, to be played in Toronto, an occasion that already has helped bring additional attention to the Argos.
Rudge’s new role also sends a significant and long overdue message that Braley has become and will continue to be more hands on in how the Argos conduct their business, both on and off the field.
Braley knows, as does Rudge and everyone else within the Argos organization, that the coming year is among the most important in the long history of the club, which is saying a lot.
Braley isn’t going to own both the Argos and Lions forever and Rudge’s three-year commitment to the good Senator to bring the Argos out of the red and into a position worthy of a would-be buyer cannot be understated.
If anyone can do it, it’s Rudge, who wants to reinvigorate the franchise by getting every conceivable corporate partner and every fan engaged and entertained.
Rudge is well aware of the skeptics, but he’s been around the block long enough to pay little attention to the naysayers when he hears how futile it is to make the Argos relevant again, and more importantly turn them from a money-losing business into a profitable one.
“There are those who say it can’t be done,’’ he added. “And those are the ones who get run over when it does get done.”
Chris Rudge is no run of the mill executive.
Chris Rudge is the right man, and only man, for the Argos at this important point in their history.
THE RUDGE FILE
A look at Chris Rudge, chairman and CEO of the 100th Grey Cup Festival who was named Monday as executive chairman and CEO of the Argos.
* Former CEO of the Canadian Olympic Committee; also chaired the successful Own The Podium program.
* Former senior executive at Quebecor World Inc., which was, at the time of his retirement in January 2002, the world’s largest commercial printer.
* Served as president and part owner of Pickering-based Web Offset Publications.
* Played for the Syracuse Stingers of the National Lacrosse League.
* Holds a teaching certificate from Queen’s and a bachelor of phys ed and health from U of T.
* Lives in Toronto with his wife, Janet Nutter, a former Olympic diver; they have two children, Ryan and Diane.
* Board member of Toronto’s campaign to play host to the 2015 Pan Am Games.