‘There is no money to be made in football’: Pierre Karl Péladeau puts no deadline on profitability for Alouettes

Photo courtesy: Montreal Alouettes

The Montreal Alouettes are in the midst of a renaissance following their surprise Grey Cup victory in 2023 but that has not yet equated to profitability for the franchise.

Addressing the Montreal media on Thursday ahead of his team’s home opener, Pierre Karl Péladeau made no attempt to dispel the notion that he lost money in his first year as owner. However, he insisted that team president Mark Weightman is under no immediate pressure to deliver a financial miracle.

“There’s no deadline (to make the team profitable),” Péladeau assured. “I said at the beginning, I’m not coming in for the money. There’s no money to be made in the football now. If this could change in the future, we’ll find out. Obviously, we’re going to work towards that perspective but that was certainly not my first inclination.”

The 62-year-old telecom mogul, who has an estimated net worth of $2.6 billion CAD, purchased the Alouettes in March of 2023. At the time, the franchise was in desperate financial straits after more than a decade of middling on-field performance and declining attendance. The team’s previous owner, Sid Spiegel, had passed away before ever witnessing the team play and his estate stopped funding football operations during the 2023 offseason, leading the CFL to take control of the organization for the second time in five years.

Despite the turmoil at the top, the team far exceeded expectations on the field last season and Péladeau hoisted the Grey Cup in his first shot at the coveted trophy. The hits have kept coming since, with a sellout crowd of 23,035 fans packing into Percival Molson Stadium on Thursday night to watch the championship banner raised before a 47-21 dismantling of the Ottawa Redblacks.

While the team’s financials are not a matter of public record, the man writing the cheques was cautiously optimistic about his organization’s trends at the box office.

“They’ve improved in a significant manner, that’s all I can tell you,” Péladeau grinned coyly.

“I should not be arrogant to say (we have returned to the glory days). As we say in French, “Une hirondelle ne fait pas le printemps” — a new bird will not make the rest of the year or the rest of the summer. I think that we need to be modest.”

The Alouettes averaged 17,670 in attendance for 2023 — the second-lowest mark in the CFL behind Toronto. While the team’s first championship in 13 years has provided an immediate boost at the gate, how sustainable that is will depend on the impact of the significant investments made by ownership. Those have included aesthetic upgrades to the stadium, improved gameday entertainment, and a shiny new video screen for replays — though questions still loom regarding how much things can actually improve within the ancient venue.

What Péladeau has remained adamant about since day one is his ability to absorb hits to his pocketbook so that wins can rack up on the field. He appears to take pride in being the type of committed local owner who won’t scurry away the first time he feels a pinch in the pocketbook, hopefully restoring stability to the Alouettes and pride to the province of Quebec in the process.

“I don’t consider myself a football expert. I know a little bit about business. We need to find out what will be the proper things to do to make this team, yes, obviously profitable on game day, but also winning games and the Grey Cup,” he said of his philosophy. “How can we piggyback on this and make sure that, at the end of the day, we’re going to be in a better financial situation which will be good for the team, but which will be good also for the entire league? This is of importance.”

So far, the standings have provided the results that the balance sheet has not, as Montreal remains undefeated through three weeks. The Alouettes (3-0) will head back on the road next week when they visit the Toronto Argonauts on Friday, June 28.

Editor’s note: This article was written with key files from contributor Pablo Herrera-Vergara.

J.C. Abbott is a University of British Columbia graduate and high school football coach. He covers the CFL, B.C. Lions, CFL Draft and the three-down league's Global initiative.