By Paul Cherry
In a deal finalized only days ago, Expos president Claude Brochu set Sept. 30 as the deadline for the group of remaining Expos shareholders to pay for his stake in the team.
Brochu's 7.2 per cent of the team's shares are worth an estimated $15 million, and any deal would see his tenure as managing partner and 13-year career as president of the baseball team come to an end. Brochu was named president on Sept. 6, 1986, and was later made managing partner when Charles Bronfman sold the club.
Johanne Heroux, Expos vice-president of communications, confirmed yesterday that although Brochu and the other shareholders had most of the buyout deal completed in January, the fine print was only agreed upon Aug. 6.
The date was set as lawyers from both sides worked out the details. If the shareholders do not pay by Sept. 30, the two parties would have to renegotiate.
Heroux noted, however, that deadlines have been changed often as the Expos attempt to have Major League Baseball approve their business plan that would change managing partners and ownership. A spokesman for the owners' group described the finalization of the deal as a mere formality. "The amount was agreed upon long ago, so there was very little left to discuss," Jean Simard said. The completion of the deal comes at a time when the group that would take over control of the Expos appears to be nearing the completion of other important steps, including having the change in control of the team ratified by Major League Baseball, and purchasing the land for a new downtown stadium. The Sept. 30 deadline was selected by Brochu to correspond with the end of the regular season (technically, the season ends Oct. 3) and as a date when the parties involved hope - for various reasons, including scheduling - there will be an agreement confirming the team will play here next year.
Heroux said that despite numerous suggestions that Brochu wanted to sell the team to an interest that would move it out of Montreal, he wants to see this deal completed, but within a reasonable time limit. Simard confirmed the Sept. 30 deadline was set by Brochu.
If baseball commissioner Bud Selig approves the Expos plan, it would probably be put to a vote for ratification at a mid-September meeting of the league's 30 owners. Approval would allow New York art dealer Jeffrey Loria to take over as managing partner. He is expected to pay $75 million for a stake in the team, to be matched by an equal amount of new local capital.
Brochu has been rumoured to be preparing for his departure from the team. Some have pointed to a weekend party with employees as his last function as president.
Heroux said the gathering was merely an annual meeting to celebrate some employees' significant anniversaries with the club. Traditionally, Brochu gives a speech and the employees receive a gift as recognition for five, 10 or 20 years of work with the Expos.
"It was moving because (French-language broadcaster) Rodger Brulotte had very nice words for Mr. Brochu,'' Heroux said.
'He recognized Mr. Brochu's efforts and noted he was the first to have the vision to consider a new park.
''But (Brochu) didn't cry, and no one spoke about it being his last function with the team," she said, adding the details of the gathering have taken on a life of their own through various reports.