George Allen, the former coach of the Washington Redskins, resigned yesterday as president of the Montreal Alouettes when his attempts to buy that team reached an impasse.
In a prepared statement, Allen said, "It now appears impossible for the team to be purchased or sold, and we have exhausted every avenue available in an effort to reach a solution."
Allen said he would reconsider only if present owner Nelson Skalbania can obtain waivers for his debts within two weeks. "Our door is still open," Allen said.
Since joining the team in February, Allen had been trying to exercise his option to purchase the financially strapped Alouettes from Skalbania for a reported $2.8 million. But when Skalbania failed to pay off the team's 1981 debts, Allen bowed out.
"The biggest problem was that it was impossible for Nelson to sell the club because he doesn't have clearance from his creditors," Allen said by telephone from Montreal. "Right now, he's in Hong Kong. It's very difficult to do business this way."
Two weeks ago, Allen and Bill Harris, his principal financial backer, had reached an agreement with Skalbania to clarify the situation by April 14. That deadline passed with no word from the absent owner, but on the previous day, the Canadian Football League issued a statement that said the charter of the Montreal franchise might be revoked.
"I guess even the CFL wasn't certain who owned the team," said Allen, who sounded hoarse and tired.
On March 6, Skalbania transferred his ownership of the team to an Alberta holding company of which he is president. The CFL forbids even a minority ownership change without its approval.
The presence of Harry Ornest, one of Skalbania's creditors, further confused the picture. Rumors circulated that Skalbania had turned over his controlling interest in the team to Ornest as payment for a reported $1.6 million debt.
Ornest, Skalbania's appointed stand-in team governor, also claimed to hold the right of first refusal in any sale of the team.
Jake Gaudaur, CFL commissioner, last week appointed a four-man group to study the Alouettes' financial situation to determine who actually owned the team, and whether it indeed would continue operations next season.
Allen remained in Montreal until yesterday afternoon, meeting daily with his and Skalbania's attorneys, in hopes of working out the snarled details of taking over the club. He also met with coaches, planning for the team's training camp, which is scheduled to open May 28. Allen, in fact, had hired Coach Joe Galat in February. Galat's status, like that of the club, was uncertain yesterday. Bob Geary, listed as the team's general manager, will take over as director of operations.
Throughout more than two weeks of negotiations, Skalbania has remained in Hong Kong, where, Harris and Allen said, they repeatedly tried without success to contact him. "He wouldn't talk to us, but he's probably got a lot of problems . . . this probably hasn't been top priority," said Harris.
Skalbania was reached Wednesday night by Montreal Gazette reporter Dick Bacon, whom he told, "There are bigger problems in the world than the Alouettes. I guess it's reached a situation where I have to get back."
Harris said that although his group's original agreement required Skalbania to pay all past debts, two weeks ago a tentative agreement had been reached. Allen and Harris would pay certain debts if Skalbania provided waivers for other creditors.
"But many people he said he'd have waivers from were never even contacted," Harris said yesterday.
"My father hates to give up on anything," said Allen's son, George, an attorney who has been involved in some of the Montreal negotiations. "I don't see anything that can be done, but he's of the opinion that if you keep working, something will happen."
Allen, who has done football commentary for CBS Sports the past four seasons, flew back to his California home yesterday. He gave no indication of his plans, but, according to a CBS spokesman, discussions for next fall's broadcasts are continuing, and it is not known if Allen will return.
"My original goal was to own my own team, and it still is," Allen said. "Since I've been here (Montreal), we've sold more season tickets and we made tremendous progress, even though it doesn't show. This (entire situation) isn't something that just happened. It's been going on a year.
"My intentions were the same all along. Investors were never a problem, but now it's become impossible for anybody to buy this team."