Danny Maciocia just got off of a cruise ship but that’s not why the Alouettes’ general manager is more relaxed than he has been in years.
Rather, it is new ownership that has Maciocia looking like a different man. His return home to Montreal comes on the heels of the sale of the club to local billionaire Pierre Karl Péladeau, ending the team’s second period of league stewardship in just four seasons.
“It’s stability. For us, that is so important. I can’t tell you that we’ve experienced that lately,” Maciocia admitted with a smile during his first address to the media since the announcement. “There were more topics of discussion off the field than there were on the field. I’m referencing all that we lived through last year.”
Maciocia was hired by his hometown team in January 2020, shortly after the franchise was purchased from the league by S and S Sportsco, a corporate entity owned by steel magnate Sid Spiegel and his son-in-law Gary Stern. Spiegel passed away in July 2021 having never seen his team play a game and his 75 percent ownership stake moved into the control of his estate. The remaining 25 percent stayed under the ownership of Stern, who quickly earned a reputation for being brash and outspoken.
Stern was forced to take a step back from the team’s day-to-day operations in August 2022 and resigned from the CFL’s board of governors. Still, friction behind the scenes led team president Mario Cecchini to not be retained despite improvements in the team’s performance off the field. Meanwhile, Spiegel’s estate grew disinterested in funding the franchise and Maciocia had his spending power pulled ahead of free agency, leading to the departure of stars Trevor Harris and Eugene Lewis.
The CFL took over interim ownership of the franchise on February 14, restoring the GM’s ability to execute transactions. Now that the future of the team has been secured, Maciocia won’t rehash the issues of the previous ownership group — drawing a chorus of laughter with a smirking “next question” response. Instead, he is focused on what the new man in charge can bring to the table.
“Mr. Péladeau is someone who has had a lot of success. A proud Montrealer, a proud Quebecer, someone who has connections in the city and in the province. He takes the Alouettes’ organization to heart,” Maciocia explained.
“We’re very motivated. It certainly excites us, whether it is short-term or long-term, and I think that we can build something very interesting by having a person like that as part of our organization.”
The 61-year-old Péladeau is the CEO of Quebecor, a Montreal-based media and telecommunications company that operates assets such as Videotron, Groupe TVA, Le Journal de Montreal and Le Journal de Quebec. He has an estimated net worth of $1.9 billion USD and purchased the CFL franchise as a personal asset.
Though Maciocia had not yet had a chance to meet his new boss in person prior to addressing the media on Thursday — they officially met on Friday — the two shared a brief phone call on the day of the purchase and have exchanged several emails and text messages. He came away impressed by those interactions, as well as the introductory press conference last week.
“The way that he expressed himself, I think it inspired a lot of people in our office. I am convinced we are heading in the right direction,” the long-time CFL coach and executive said.
“You see that this is a person who wants what is best for the organization. For someone like me or the rest of us who have lived through what we have lived through the last few years, it is a relief and it inspires us enormously. It’s big for us.”
A strong believer in the value of local talent when it comes to his players and staff, Maciocia notes that many of the same principles can be applied to good ownership. Local investment can only help the team moving forward, though there is still vital work that has to be done.
The Alouettes still need to hire a new president to replace Cecchini, who returned in an interim capacity under league ownership but has since been hired as the new commissioner of the QMJHL — where Péladeau’s company owns two teams. The importance of that decision is not lost on Maciocia, but his interactions with the man in charge have put him at ease.
“The thing that is most important — and I believe I share the same opinion as Mr. Peladeau — is that we have to be aligned. We have to share the same vision, we have to share the same values,” he stressed. “If we are an organization that is well-aligned, it is then that we can dream about being an organization that not only wins on the field but has success off of it.”
That wasn’t possible while fighting an uphill battle against the previous management. At least for now, the new setup must feel like an extended vacation.