Expos Will Have to Wait Longer

By Stephanie Myles/The Gazette

The Expos' situation is officially on the agenda at baseball's ownership committee meetings, scheduled for Sept. 15-16 in Cooperstown, N.Y.

But it appears unlikely the committee will vote on proposed new general partner Jeffrey Loria, or the team's new marketing plan.

If that's the case, it may be December before another critical date pops up on this tortuous survival calendar.
"It's too soon to say if they'll have amassed the elements needed to put it to a vote," Expos vice-president (communications) Johanne Heroux said yesterday. Three weeks may not even be enough time to draw up the necessary contracts to be signed before Loria can be installed as the new general partner, replacing outgoing president Claude Brochu.

It's also too soon to say whether Loria is even ready to make the commitment. If the committee votes to accept Loria's candidacy, there will be no going back. And Loria is reported to have many questions about the Montreal market left unanswered.

To that end, he is expected in Montreal soon to meet the management-level braintrust of the team, and take in a couple of games at the stadium. For a long-time Yankees season-ticket holder, the rare opportunity to see National Leaguer Mark McGwire might prove too good to miss.

One Expos source said last night the issue of Loria's commitment to keeping the team in Montreal for 20 years - something many felt might hold up the deal - has apparently become close to a moot point. At the very least, it might not be a mandatory part of his agreement to invest in the team.

The amount of the investment of Stephen Bronfman, son of former owner Charles Bronfman, might also be on the rise. Originally pegged at about $5 million, that amount could be increased up to $25 million, which would give him a substantial share.

Heroux qualified as accurate a recent report that the Expos' projected 1999 loss is about $18 million Canadian, bringing the team's total debt at the end of the year to approximately $56 million.

The doubling of the payroll, a major drop in attendance, and a drop of close to 50 per cent in sponsorship revenue (including television rights) account for the negative turnaround from a $7-million profit in 1998.
"The shareholders have so far always refused cash calls, although obviously that may change in the future," Heroux said.

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