Where's the transparency?

PAUL FRIESEN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:48 AM ET

It wasn't part of all the fancy charts and bar graphs trotted out by the Winnipeg Blue Bomber brass yesterday.

It wasn't in the year-end financial statement the club released, either.

But a not-so-tiny tidbit emerged from discussions with president/CEO Lyle Bauer and board chairman Ken Hildahl.

It's an approximately $5-million tidbit, the amount of assets (most of it cash) your community-owned football team has on hand after earning a $700,000-plus profit in 2008.

That's a nice little bank account for a franchise that couldn't afford to buy toilet paper 10 years ago.

Swells or shrinks

It turns out that pot, and whatever it swells or shrinks to this coming season, is going toward the $10-million fund that's supposed to ensure the Bombers stay here long after David Asper takes over as private owner.

Word of that fund came from Asper's splashy news conference three weeks ago.

It's supposed to work like this: if Asper's ownership crumbles or he's forced to bail out for health reasons, or whatever, and there's no secession plan, the team at least has $10 million to remain on its feet while it either finds another buyer or reverts to community ownership.

The thing is, Asper three weeks ago said he was responsible for coming up with that $10 million. Hildahl said so, too.

They even equated the fund with the sale price of the football team.

"We've given it a value of $10 million," Hildahl said at the time. "We couldn't just simply be perceived as giving the team away. We weren't prepared to do that."

Now we find out the $5 million the Bombers have in the bank is going into that fund, leaving just $5 million or so for Asper to top up.

"The intent always was whatever cash assets the club had would go into that fund," Hildahl said yesterday. "And then it would be up to Creswin (Asper's company) to bring it up to the full $10 million."

That's not what they told us three weeks ago.

Nitpicking, you say?

Since when is $5 million nitpicking?

Using the Bombers' and Asper's logic about the value of the team, it seems Asper is getting a CFL franchise at a serious discount. Half-price, in fact.

Now, you could easily argue that Asper's overall $100-million contribution to a new stadium more than entitles him to the football team -- for free, even.

I'm more concerned about the lack of transparency, the spin we're getting.

I mean, if they left out this little detail about the stadium/ownership deal, what else haven't they told us? What other devils are in the details?

Maybe I'm just paranoid, eyes glazed over from looking at one-too-many of these financial statements over the years.

The "good" news is we may never see another one, since at this time next year your Blue Bombers will be David Asper's Blue Bombers. And he'll be obliged to tell us nothing about his business.

From the numbers we crunched yesterday, the guy's certainly taking over a healthy organization.

Payments from the CFL's TV deal and other league sponsorships have hit nearly $2 million per year. The Bombers bring in another $4 million of their own corporate bucks. The season-ticket base is solid, even after a lousy, 8-10 season that led to an off-season housecleaning and firing of the head coach.

And then there's that $5-million balance.

It's hard to believe this organization was on the verge of bankruptcy just nine years ago.

"You would expect that David Asper is a fairly astute businessman," Bauer said. "And it's probably a good move to buy or get a business that is very solid."

An even better move to buy it, or get it, at a wholesale price.


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