Alabamian's withdrawal puts Rough Riders at risk

March 02, 1995|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Sun Staff Writer

The future of Ottawa's 118-year-old Canadian Football League franchise was in doubt yesterday after Elliot Maisel, a Mobile, Ala., beer distributor, withdrew his offer to purchase the Rough Riders.

Maisel agreed to buy the Riders last week and keep them in Ottawa at least two more seasons. But he apparently had a change of heart when a league audit of the team turned up new creditors and a fiscal liability of $2.5 million.

Despite a league announcement that Maisel pulled out, Baltimore owner Jim Speros said he believes Ottawa will have a team next season -- and that Maisel will be the owner.

"Elliot may be playing a positioning game," Speros said. "In my mind, he probably wants to see it [his Ottawa commitment] go to one year. The biggest problem with him was he didn't want to [commit to] two years. . . . He is gung-ho on being an owner in our league."

The CFL audit showed that as many as 160 unsecured creditors are owed a total of $1 million by the Riders. The team owes the league $500,000 it borrowed during 1994. And $1 million in revenue from the sale of season tickets and corporate sponsorships for 1995 and 1996 has been spent. On top of that, team president Phil Kershaw's company car was repossessed this week. CFL commissioner Larry Smith, meanwhile, extended until Monday the deadline for teams in Ottawa and Las Vegas to finalize deals for new ownership.

League owners meet next week in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and are expected to vote on those proposals.

The league has invited at least one former bidder for the Rough Riders, Horn Chen of Chicago, back into negotiations. Chen owns several restaurants in Chicago and several minor-league hockey franchises. He said he would review the situation again.

Smith met with officials in Jackson, Miss., on Tuesday attempting to relocate the Las Vegas Posse, but was unable to close a deal. Billy Lyons, a Birmingham, Ala., businessman, would be the new owner.

Depending on the outcome of negotiations in Ottawa and Jackson, the CFL could have 12, 13 or 14 teams this season.

In a related development, creditors of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats this week voted overwhelmingly to accept 20 cents on the dollar in settlement terms. The offer was approved by 91 percent of the creditors. The team is community owned.

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