Forget the XFL: it’s time for the CFL to invest in itself

Photo: 3DownNation

XFL ownership — RedBird Capital, Dany Garcia, and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson — wants to partner with the CFL because they view the league as a money-making venture.

Though some have parroted the narrative that the CFL is an antiquated product on the verge of collapse, interest from the XFL proves that there’s money to be made in Canada.

RedBird manages over $4 billion in assets with ties to teams like Liverpool FC and the Boston Red Sox. It’s a powerful, impressive company.

With that said, six of the CFL’s nine teams are privately-owned and each have ties to extremely wealthy people. CFL owners aren’t paupers or middle-class working heroes. They’re exorbitantly rich.

I’ve provided some rough figures for each of these clubs below. They are not extremely detailed, but should provide a basic idea of the league’s financial landscape from a private ownership standpoint.

B.C. Lions — David Braley’s estate

Braley passed away in October 2020 and was the owner and president of Orlick Industries Ltd., an automotive parts manufacturer in Stoney Creek, Ont. He left enough money in his estate to operate the Lions for several years until a new owner is found.

Though Braley’s net worth has never been reported, it’s believed his estate is valued at over $1 billion. He made many generous donations throughout his life, including $10 million to Hamilton Health Sciences, $5 million to McMaster University, and $3 million to Mohawk College.

Calgary Stampeders — Calgary Sports & Entertainment

CSE took over controlling interest of the Stamps in 2012, adding them to a portfolio that already included the Calgary Flames (NHL), Calgary Hitmen (WHL), Calgary Roughnecks (NLL), and Stockton Heat (AHL).

The company has close to $1 billion in assets and is owned by several wealthy business people, led by oil sands tycoon N. Murray Edwards with an estimated net worth of $1.8 billion.

Toronto Argonauts — Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment

Larry Tanenbaum owns 25 percent of MLSE and in 2018 was identified as the 77th richest person in Canada by Canadian Business with a net worth of $1.5 billion. Tanenbaum wants an NFL team in Toronto, though the NFL wants teams be owned by individuals — not companies or partners.

The Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan sold 79.53 percent of MLSE for $1.32 billion in 2012. The value of the company has since exploded due largely to surging assessments of the Maple Leafs, Raptors, and Toronto FC.

Rogers Communications owns 37.5 percent of MLSE and is massively profitable on its own, reaching an average net profit of approximately $1.5 billion per year from 2010 to 2020. Bell — which also owns TSN — owns 37.5 percent of MLSE and posted average net profits of approximately $2.5 billion from 2010 to 2019.

Hamilton Tiger-Cats — Bob Young

The Hamiltonian co-founded software giant Red Hat in the early 1990s. Though he cashed out his stock well before the company was sold to IBM for $34 billion in 2019, Young still left the company with hundreds of millions of dollars.

Young founded the online publishing company Lulu in 2002, has ties to drone company Precision Hawk, and owns the Canadian Premier League’s Forge FC. His net worth is unknown, but he’s obviously extremely wealthy.

Ottawa Redblacks — Ottawa Sports & Entertainment Group

OSEG owns the Redblacks and the Ottawa 67’s of the OHL, which in 2016 had a value of over $55 million.

Roger Greenberg, OSEG’s chairman and managing partner, was named Canada’s 74th richest person by Canadian Business in 2018 with a net worth of $1.57 billion.

Montreal Alouettes — S & S Sportsco

Sid Spiegel and his son-in-law, Gary Stern, are the sole owners of S & S Sportsco and have ties to manufacturing and real estate. Spiegel founded Crawford Steel in Belleville, Ont. in 1944 and has grown the business to include 17 distribution centres.

The net worth of Spiegel and Stern has not been previously reported.


These numbers indicate that the CFL’s financial leaders don’t need RedBird. They have more combined capital than RedBird and there’s nothing stopping them from investing in their own product.

There is still lots of room to grow the CFL in Canada. By investing in amateur football, embracing single-game sports betting, marketing the league in new and exciting ways, and adding new Canadian franchises — and not just in Halifax — the CFL could achieve tremendous growth without any help from external sources.

I understand that I am not a CFL owner, nor a wealthy business mogul. Spending other people’s money is one of the easiest things in the world.

With that said, the best investment any of us can make is in ourselves.

Let’s hope the CFL’s private owners agree.

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.