The question of who gets the Montreal Alouettes went unanswered for yet another day, but moved at least one step in the direction of resolution.
George Allen, team president, and his financial backer, Bill Harris, still attempting to exercise their option to purchase the Canadian Football League team, spent most of today meeting with Alouettes' owner Nelson Skalbania and Harry Ornest, a Los Angeles businessman who has been appointed Skalbania's "stand-in" on the CFL board of governors.
No decision on the sale was reached, but the Alouettes' office issued a statement from Skalbania, saying that discussions had taken place "for an orderly transfer of control and management (of the team) to a new ownership group . . . (and that) as in the past, George Allen will continue to direct and manage as president of the club."
Allen said the group would meet again Wednesday. When asked if he felt positive about a decision on the sale, Allen smiled slightly. His son, George, a lawyer, said, "Basically, we've got some constructive meetings going on here, and to speculate now would be inappropriate."
Allen joined the Alouettes in February, with an option allowing him and Harris to acquire 51 percent of the team by the end of this year, and the other 49 percent by December 1983.
The sale has been delayed, in part because all of the team's debts and creditors have not yet been uncovered. Club debts for the 1982 season have been estimated at $1.2 to $1.5 million. Allen's agreement states that Skalbania must pay off any existing debts.
Ornest entered the picture last week, following speculation that Skalbania would turn his controlling interest in the team over to Ornest.
Two years ago, Ornest sold Skalbania a Pacific Coast League Triple-A baseball team, and Skalbania reportedly still owes Ornest $1.6 million.
Skalbania also has appointed Ornest the sole banking officer for the team, and Ornest told the Montreal Gazette he has "legal authorization to negotiate the sale of the team."
Asked if Ornest's appearance last week came as a surprise, Allen turned to Harris, who said, "We're always happy to see Harry. He's a charming fellow."
"As you may know, Nelson owes him some money," Allen deadpanned.
At this point, the CFL has not yet become involved, and had no representatives involved in today's discussions.
"As far as the league is concerned, Nelson Skalbania is still the 100 percent owner," said CFL Commissioner Jake Gaudaur. "An owner has the right to make a deal conditional to league approval, then to request a transfer of ownership."
Any such change, even a minority interest in a club, is subject to league approval. The board of governors must reach a seven-ninths vote of approval to okay such a deal.
No board of governors meeting has been scheduled to discuss the Alouettes' situation, although Gaudaur suggested that an informal meeting on the subject is "quite probable" in the near future.
Gaudaur would neither confirm nor deny a Montreal newspaper's report that he had spent Monday meeting with league attorneys to discuss what course of action to take should the Alouettes' situation remain unresolved.
However, he did say that Skalbania's appointment of Ornest to his governor's post was of little significance to the league.
"It's not uncommon for an owner to send someone else in as a representative," he said. "Who owns and controls a team is what's important. And Skalbania is still the 100 percent owner as far as the CFL is concerned."