Bronfman to Help Expos

By Jeff Blair

Associates of Stephen Bronfman acknowledge it would be surprising if he's not involved in the bid to keep baseball in Montreal.

Since selling Claridge Inc.'s 22.5 percent share in TSN's parent Netstar Communications in February, the son of former Expos owner Charles Bronfman has thrown himself into the area of digital wireless broadband technology.

As is the case with his involvement in concert promotions it's all fun stuff. But Bronfman accompanied Expos chairman Jacques Menard to a meeting with baseball officials last week in New York City.

There are indications that far from being merely one of a group of businessmen investing $5 million in a new partnership headed by art dealer Jeffrey Loria, the younger Bronfman may be mulling over a much larger stake.

Stephen Bronfman has worked in the shadows of his more flamboyant uncle Edgar and cousin Edgar, Jr. But he will eventually be responsible for Charles Bronfman's stake in Seagram's and a person familiar with the younger Bronfman doubts he would be involved in the Expos without a meaningful say. He was ready to be a major player when he first looked into the situation over the winter.

And then there's the issue of the team's hoped-for new home. It has a name, but the Expos' proposed new ball park is still a field of weeds.

In fact, those associated with Major League Baseball and the Expos' limited partnership now believe a resolution of president Claude Brochu's status, the formalizing of Loria's involvement and baseball's acceptance of a new ball park isn't realistic until the first week of August at the earliest.

But what can baseball do about it? Brochu doesn't have support from within the consortium to sell the team. Baseball could try to enforce the 60-40 debt-to-equity ratio that each club must maintain, a move that by one estimate could force the Expos' limited partners to ante up a minimum of $30 million at the end of the current season.

On the other hand, by one source's reckoning, there may be 10 major league teams that wouldn't make the grade and an interesting legal battle would loom if the Expos' limited partners felt they'd been singled out.

Menard has submitted three park proposals for major league baseball's approval and already there has been enough back and forth between the sides that the tab for the new park is now a little more than $200 million, instead of the $175-million initial figure that everyone in baseball thought unrealistically low.

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