MONTREAL — Potential Montreal Alouettes owner Jeffrey Lenkov says buying the troubled CFL team is a "once in a lifetime" opportunity.
Jeffrey and his brother Peter are part of an ownership group that is in the midst of exclusive negotiations with the league to buy the Alouettes. The CFL took control of the team earlier this season from previous owners Bob and Andrew Wettenhall.
Jeffrey is a Los Angeles-based lawyer while Peter is a Hollywood producer, writer and showrunner. Both brothers, who grew up in Laval, Que., were in Montreal Saturday to watch the Alouettes defeat the Edmonton Eskimos 20-10 for their third straight victory.
"What are the chances of growing up, loving a franchise and then having the opportunity to be involved with them?" said Jeffrey Lenkov. "I am one of these guys who gets a thrill from seeing the players. I'm still a little kid excited at heart. The opportunity arose, it's crazy not to look at it."
Lenkov, who attended Montreal's McGill University in the 1980s, is a self-proclaimed "huge Alouettes fan." He says he has Als memorabilia in his office in L.A., including an old team helmet. He owns vintage Gerry Dattilio and Johnny Rodgers jerseys, and even knows some of the old players like Junior Ah You and Vince Ferragamo personally.
But it's not just about nostalgia. The 54-year-old says he sees this as a viable business opportunity, despite the team having lost money the last few years.
Lenkov says it's about getting fans in the seats, putting a winning product on the field and re-energizing the community that may have fallen out of love with the Alouettes.
"There's a lot of elements as to what constitutes a financial success," he said. "Not everything is the bottom line. That said, you still have to be fiscally responsible when you have partners. You have a lot of people's livelihoods with the team involved, people who really care about it. Part of the process is about being responsible and diligent in the decision-making."
Lenkov firmly believes the Als are on the upswing, and it's not just the three-game winning streak. He pointed to coach Khari Jones and a slew of young players as the recipe for success in the near future.
He also feels that, as an owner, he would be able to contribute to returning the team to its glory days. Montreal has not made the playoffs since 2014. The last Grey Cup win was in 2010.
"People talk about timelines," said the lawyer. "I would like to see us win the Grey Cup this year. In my mind, if they keep winning, I don't see any limits. We wouldn't get involved if it was a five-year or 10-year plan."
Lenkov refused to reveal any specifics about the potential sale or who else was part of his ownership group "for the sake of confidentiality." He did say it was important to him that former CFLers, like Ferragamo for example, had input in the franchise.
The Lenkov brothers were soaking in what they hope was the last game as strictly Alouettes fans before becoming team owners.
"It's incredible to be here," said Jeffrey Lenkov. "I went to McGill. I played on that field. To see the team and the energy of the fans, this is what it's all about. Beautiful Montreal night. What more could we want? A little poutine, some Molson, that's it.”
Kelsey Patterson, The Canadian Press
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