The plot keeps on thickening. Once again, the proposed sale of the Montreal Alouettes to former Washington Redskin Coach George Allen has stalled.
A Toronto newspaper said today that the Alouettes' principal owner, Nelson Skalbania, had transferred ownership of the team to an Alberta holding company of which he is president.
The Globe and Mail newspaper said Skalbania bought the CML Oil Sand Drilling Services Ltd. last January, changing the name to CML Estates Ltd. The Alouettes reportedly became a subsidiary of that company on March 6.
The Canadian Football League's sanction is required for any such ownership change. "Whenever a club or even part of one is transferred, it must be formally presented to the league for approval," said CFL Commissioner Jake Gaudaur. He served notice yesterday to all CFL clubs under the league's revocation procedure, which blocks transfer of Skalbania's ownership of the team without the league's approval.
Gaudaur appointed a four-man committee to study Skalbania's financial dealings and to determine exactly who owns what interest in the Alouettes.
In a prepared statement, Gaudaur said Montreal's operation will continue and that "if the club's creditors from 1981 operations are satisfied and adequate operating capital provided, the notice could be withdrawn."
Gaudaur said the matter would be on the agenda at next month's league meetings.
Last Wednesday, Skalbania reached an agreement to sell his team to Allen and Bill Harris, a California businessman who is Allen's primary financial backer. The agreement stipulated that Skalbania would clear up significant details--specifically, to pay off the team's substantial debts--by today and sell the club for an estimated $2.8 million.
Allen, Harris and their lawyers originally were scheduled to meet in Montreal with attorneys for the Alouettes today in hopes of completing the deal.
But Skalbania, who has been in Hong Kong, has not indicated that his obligations have been fulfilled, and any such meeting likely will be rescheduled when he returns to Montreal.
Allen joined the team as its president and chief operating officer in February and has been trying to exercise his option to buy it ever since.
However, outstanding team debts of about $1.3 million incurred by Skalbania, as well as what seemed to be an indefinite number of creditors, prevented completion of the sale.
The presence of Harry Ornest, Skalbania's designated stand-in team governor, also has complicated matters. Skalbania reportedly owes Ornest $1.6 million and was rumored to have turned the controlling interest in the team over to him.
Skalbania was unavailable for comment
Allen spent most of yesterday in meetings at the Alouettes' offices and would not accept phone calls. His son George, one of the lawyers involved in the Alouettes situation, said the news of Skalbania's ownership transfer was not news to George Allen, and had been discussed at last week's meetings.
The junior Allen said his group had not imposed a one-week ultimatum for settling debts on Skalbania. "Originally, Nelson said he'd clear it all up by Monday," he said. "But because he was going away, we said to give it a full week."
Allen refused to speculate on what his father would do if the deal cannot be satisfactorily completed. "Nelson said it would all be cleared up. That's what we have to go on."