Expos Are Here to Stay: Bachand

By Sean Gordon/ The Gazette

As the fog surrounding their lingering ownership muddle dissipates, it's now clear the Expos are here to stay, says one of the team's minority shareholders.

"Any decision to move or sell the team depends on the vast majority of partners, it's not one person who will make a decision to move the team," said Raymond Bachand, president of the Quebec Federation of Labour's pension fund, which owns part of the team. "The financial structure, including the government loans, are an incentive to stay here for the long term, and I have no concerns whatsoever about that."

The fund currently owns 10 per cent of the team, although their stake will be diluted when Jeffry Loria - a New York-based art dealer about whom little is known - takes over as principal owner next week.

Former managing partner Claude Brochu will receive a $15-million buyout for his stake in the team, and the new ownership consortium will spend $6 million buying out Aramark Corp.'s share of the team.

Aramark also owns part of the Boston Red Sox and was told to relinquish its Expos shares by Major League Baseball.

Bachand said Loria - who he described as a "baseball nut" - is looking forward to working with the team's front office on improving the on-field product. General manager Jim Beattie has previously announced the team will increase its payroll, but Bachand said it will ultimately hit 80 per cent of the league average, and that in time for the opening of a new downtown stadium in 2002.
"We're going to hold on to the players we've got, and we'll be able to improve the team, it's very exciting," Bachand said.

Bachand added that government contributions have played a key role in allowing a new partnership to assume control of the beleaguered team.
"The government of Quebec, in addition to the government of Canada, has made a remarkable effort in picking up the interest on a stadium loan . . . the Expos are a societal issue, not a partisan one, and that's how it was treated," Bachand said.

The team hopes to break ground on Labatt Park in February or March. The stadium, which is slated to have 37,000 seats, will cost about $200 million, and is seen as the key condition to making baseball viable in Montreal.

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