I received an email this morning from Marc Chayer, vice-president of club operations for the Whitecourt Wolverines regarding that group withdrawing their offer to purchase the Centennials.
What I find most interesting about this release is that the group repeatedly says that media reports were contradictory to what they were told, except they never ONCE returned a phone call or email to me once they pulled their offer. I was willing to give them the opportunity to explain their reasoning, but they didn't take me up on the offer. That being said, I'm not going to belabour the issue, nor get into a peeing match between the Stark Group and the Centennials Board of Directors. The Cents Board is here, the Stark Group is not, so as a result where my support lies is crystal clear.
Re; Merritt Centennials Proposed Sale
In light of recent reports with respect to the collapsed sale of the Merritt Centennials, we felt compelled to bring the community up to speed as to our reasons for withdrawing our application to purchase the franchise.
Throughout our discussions it was understood by our management team that the situation in Merritt as it related to the team was a grave one indeed. With an abysmal record the season previous, a need for a coaching change (which had already been announced) and a distinct lack of resources both financially and operationally were probably the chief concerns that would need to be addressed.
From the initial start of the discussion, it was and remained our position that the team was under the direct control of the society until such a time that league approval of the sale had been achieved. This point was reiterated on several occasions and was evidenced by the fact that the contract negotiated with Joey Bouchard was in fact agreed to by the society board of directors and not our organization. Through repeated requests, we had asked for information as it pertained to the previous season’s door counts, vendor’s lists, suppliers, sponsors etc.
Despite reports in the media to the contrary, this information was not supplied. At one point in the process, our management team was left out of the conversation for 60 days while the society worked with Joey Bouchard. It had become evident that the “assumption” had been made that this was done deal when in fact our own insecurity regarding the sale was increasing and in fact we cancelled the sale on July 1 due to that exact reason.
It was only after emergency discussions in which we stipulated the need for an active and concise dialogue and partnership that the process was restarted.
At our meeting with the BCHL Franchise Committee on the 25th of July, we were again surprised with information which was either false, or simply not reported to anyone either at the league or to our firm.
While we approached the situation as realists in the sense that we knew of the challenges presented, the mitigating factor was the distinct lack of information coupled with varying stories as to the team’s progress during the off season. For instance, at the league Franchise Committee meeting we were stunned to hear a report given that stated that the team had in fact sold over 250 season tickets yet our last report had been that only 20 had been sold. Further, a report filed by Radio NL quotes Maddison Canuel as saying only 100 of the tickets had been sold.
We received repeated reports from Joey Bouchard that he had requested his pay on numerous occasions but had often had to resort to “badgering” the team officials to be paid. It was felt at our offices that simply put, the current team ownership was simply waiting for the league approval and was seriously avoiding having to invest any further into the team and that once the transaction had been completed, there would be no help from the society as it related to the teams day to day operations.
This issue it must be pointed out was extremely important as the business plan submitted to the BCHL not only had allowed for local ownership (Frank Etchart) but it also called for the continued involvement of the members of the society in the day to day operations of the team. This fact was well known to the society and had been agreed upon. Our primary request throughout the process was that we have open and honest discussions with regard to the team’s state of affairs so that we might be able to incorporate a strategy that would see the team return to the competitive ranks of the BCHL. On this point we were constantly frustrated and in fact in most instances our requests went unanswered.
It was and remained our intent to go ahead with the purchase of the team up until the day of the league wide conference call. With the facts as outlined we were simply unsure of the level of commitment that would forthcoming from the society members to assist us in making the franchise viable. On the brink of a substantial investment on our end, the lack of solid communications and facts as they pertained to our questions we felt that no other option existed for our firm except to cancel the sale at that time.
We would also wish to note that an explanation was made to both the league and to the Society President the day of the league wide conference call outlining our position and why we had to withdraw the offer at that time despite reports to the contrary. In our visits to the City of Merritt, we found that indeed the city should be home to the Centennials and that given an honest effort by a partnership forged with trust and a commitment to bring a quality team back to Merritt this endeavour would meet with success. In our discussions with the BCHL we found a group of experienced professionals who knew of the challenges we would face and were willing to assist us in any way possible, unfortunately, we did not find this same spirit with the society.
We have sincerely regretted having had to withdraw our offer and have since stated that we would be willing to revisit the issue should an invitation be forthcoming, however it must be understood that the good of the community and the team must be forefront in the discussion simply due to the fact that the confidence by prospect players, the league and all involved is low and the teams very survival depends on an honest and open effort by ownership.
Sincerely and without prejudice,
Stark Sports Entertainment