Tampontreal Ex-Rays partnership already blowing up real good

Big news out of Montreal this weekend, where would-be Tampa Bay Rays co-owner Stephen Bronfman — Seagram heir, son of former Expos owner Charles Bronfman, and prospective Rays co-owner if they split time between two countries as current owner Stuart Sternberg insists against all sense and reason is what he’s seriously considering —  announced that a purchase deal could be imminent! Via Google Translate:

“In a few months, probably three or four, our group from Montreal will become co-owner of the Tampa team with Stuart Sternberg, the current owner of the Rays. The negotiations are very advanced. We are going to become minority shareholders, but that doesn’t bother us at all. Stuart Sternberg is a straight man who is nothing like Jeffrey Loria [former owner of the Expos],” says Bronfman.

Whoa, the Tampontreal Ex-Rays plans are so advanced that they could have a Canadian co-owner by as soon as May? That would be something! Except that Sternberg immediately chimed in with a big nuh-uh:

Sternberg said Montreal group leader Stephen Bronfman was incorrect in saying those negotiations were underway and a sale could be completed in the next three-four months.

“It isn’t true,’’ Sternberg said Saturday at Rays camp. “Eventually, at a point, I would expect and believe they could and would become minority partners. … I need some representation up there. But there’s nothing happening in months. No way.’’

Now, on the one hand, this isn’t a huge stumbling block or anything: Sternberg doesn’t have to be in any hurry to sell a share of his team, even if he does fully intend to go through with this two-state solution. (If doesn’t fully intend to do so, of course, he’s in even less of a hurry.) But Bronfman announcing one thing and then Sternberg immediately shutting it down is certainly a sign that the two aren’t completely on the same page, which is not a sign of a deal where all the t’s are crossed and i’s are dotted. It would make way more sense if Sternberg is just stringing Bronfman along as a way to see what cities, if any, he can finally get to go along with his plan to get a new stadium (or two!) with somebody else footing the bill — which, again, isn’t proof that that’s what Sternberg is up to, but it certainly all fits.

And anyway, mostly what this does in our 280-character age is get “Rays and Montreal” trending, and that can only benefit Sternberg as he haggles for whatever he can get. This is going to be a long, long ride — I mean, it’s already been going on for over a decade, but it has a long, long way yet to go — so try not to get too distracted by any one week’s headlines, though by all means go ahead and get a schadenfreude-y chuckle out of them.


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35 comments on “Tampontreal Ex-Rays partnership already blowing up real good

  1. Neil, you’re missing a critical piece of information in the sequence of events. MLB is always involved/informed in any new shareholders negotiations for any team. This can’t happen in secret like Balsillie & the Penguins in the NHL in 2006.


    So does Manfred is aware of the negotiations? Of course, MLB must allow Bronfman to negotiate with Sternberg. And what Manfred had to say:


    Manfred said he talked to Sternberg, didn’t consider the issue newsworthy and that a deal at some point would make sense.

    “If in fact he can make the two-city situation work you obviously want to have some hook in the Montreal community in terms of your ownership,” Manfred said. “That happening down the road, or the idea that people have said, Gee it would be nice if you had some Montreal ownership down the road, that doesn’t surprise me.”

    Bottom line: In order to deliver a Sister City Business Plan to MLB owners by the end of 2020, an agreement with a MTL Group shareholders investment must be in place. Otherwise, how do you guaranty the validity of the business plan and the commitment of all parties?

    That’s why a shareholder investment must be prepared and agreed with all parties in 2020, and sooner than later.

    And that’s why Bronfman interview is way more close to the reality than what Sternberg is saying. In fact, the pressure is now in Sternberg camp to make it work. Because Bronfman is not there to wait and see. The window is wide open for Montreal with the land and it can’t wait years. 2020 is the year to close a deal with the Montreal Group.

    1. Imputing factual value to anything that comes out of a sports league commissioner’s mouth is not generally recommended.

      1. Then I recommend that you don’t use any sports league commissioners declarations, it won’t give any factual value to your hard work.

        1. And that’s why I don’t! Not for determining actual facts, anyway — they’re useful for figuring out what PR message the owners want to put across, since that’s what commissioners are there for.

          1. Neil, land acquisition as Basin Peel can only be done in the short term. In addition to your theory of a madman theory, another big reason to part time team is being explored is because a full time MLB team may have huge neighbor opposition a la Oakland A;s Laney College proposal

          2. I really don’t see “Don’t worry, we’ll be heading south in April/May/September” as likely to head off any neighbor objections, knowing the way neighbors operate.

            And there is zero chance that a Tampa stadium is going to get finalized in the very short term, so if Bronfman has to move quickly on Basin Peel, he’s going to have to do it on spec, not wait until he has a Rays-sharing agreement in place. But as it sounds like he won’t need to commit to baseball before getting Canada Lands to sell the land, that may be fine with him — if he doesn’t get a team, he can always build something else there.

          3. That’s not as simple Neil. In order to get the land in partnership with Devimco who would be the main real estate developper of the land, a complete urban plan must be done for the site. We are talking about 6,000 to 10,000 condos, schools, commercial space, community facilities, … And a REM station is directly linked to the fact that a stadium will be there. The REM line is under construction right now and this segment will be operational by end of 2021, beginning of 2022. So the REM station MUST be ready on time.

            They won’t build 2 plans just in case a stadium is not required. We’ll see the conclusions report from OCPM that manage the public consultation process (due in January 2020, still not ready), but I suspect that all stakeholders (City of Montreal, CDPQ Infras for the REM, Gov. of Quebec and Canada) will need a clear plan sooner than later.

            This is the biggest investment to shape the City of Montreal in the last 30 or 50 years I think.

          4. What is this new trend of using my name when ‘splaining to me, as if to convey familiarity, or exasperated patience, or something? It’s a weird rhetorical flourish, and one I’m not previously familiar with.

            On a more serious note, I will be sadly disappointed if the REM trains don’t play “Driver 8” on a continuous loop for their entire ride.

  2. And like Frederic Daigle from the Canadian Press was tweeting yesterday: “When your accountant is sitting within the President office of a company that you want to purchase/invest, it’s usually because you’re close to have an agreement!”

    One picture (and movie) is worth a thousand words?


  3. There’s tremendous value for Sternberg in “helping” Tampa pols think that he might (despite his strenuous denials, which I’ve no doubt are true) be close to selling to someone who might move the team to Montreal. As we all know, Montreal’s secret goal is to steal all American professional sports franchises (next up: Yankees).

    It doesn’t have to be “done”, “close to done” or have even a shred of truth in it for this to work, of course.

    Cue the army of paid “communications” assistants deployed to social media (and other) sites to help move along whatever tax dollar consuming project is nearest the top of the list (or even the ones not close to the top of the list… it all works for the billionaires, after all…)

  4. I’d ask again if there’s any story more representative of MLB’s declining influence and stature in American (“U.S. American”) than this one?

    Sternberg has an MLB franchise, which supposedly go for $1-2billion (US) in an exclusive club, and his big idea is to share the team between two weak/failed markets? Could MLB–once the standard setter of American sports–really be going in on such an ABA-type move? Maybe they can have baseballs with stars and maple leaves on them too!!!

    The guy wouldn’t be in TB at all if he didn’t have a bunch of valuable land under the stadium the city built for him. All this talk of “out of the box thinking” and other business talk is just a lot of hooey for very traditional grifting. The St. Louis Browns finally have some competition.

    1. Yes, there’s a more representative story. It’s called the story about the Law of Supply and Demand. A typical “U.S. American” story.

      The particularity of that story is that it’s a multi-dimensional law. It’s about economics of TV/radio rights, tickets sold, profitability, private/public investments, …

      Regarding the two weak/failed markets that you refer to, let’s discuss that downtown Montreal during the summer at a terrace with a local beer. And I’ll make sure we have a view of the REM trains in the background.

      1. The above response is nothing but a word salad. It does not describe how any of the items noted change a single thing about the ludicrous nature of a professional sports franchise shared between two cities separated by thousands of miles.

        RSNs pay for content. If the Monpa ExRays want to sell rights in each market they will be selling the same number of games regardless of how they are split. TSN/RDS are not going to be interested in paying more for the rights to 140 (networks in US will preempt as they do with all other US based franchises) games split between two locations than they will for 140-160 in one location.

        In fact, given that Rogers pays less in per game rights fees (effectively) for TV rights to the Jays than any US based team earns from it’s RSN, the argument can be made that the team will LOSE tv revenue by splitting home games.

        If the model you have suggested (split homes means more revenue) actually worked the Expos would still exist and would be playing 20 home games in four different cities (including San Juan, which you may recall didn’t work out that well).

        Why limit your timeshare MLB model to just two cities? Why not offer Mexico city 20 games as well.

      2. I actually find Montreal to be a tremendous city—so I accept your invitation. In fact, I love visiting PQ. However, this means that Montreal is already a great city without baseball, so not sure why this silly scheme is needed.

        For all of its charms, MTL was and is a failed baseball market. Nostalgia for the Expos doesn’t mask that we have little evidence that the market has changed much, other than a rich guy with a famous name. If you want to make the DC argument—they have the whole team, it didn’t go great for a while, and DC has had a massive influx of wealth and corporate presence.

        Tampa is a weak market. Baseball has others: Cincinnati, Cleveland, Pittsburgh come to mind. Miami too.

        So anyway, the point is that a supposedly scarce asset of supposedly great appeal is being turned into a carnival sideshow. That seems to imply that the asset isn’t so desirable, that no other cities really want it, or that there is some other reason to stay in a bad market. None project strength and vitality for MLB.

      3. Should I go there. It’s been on my mind for years, now. It only makes sense, not cents. What the hell. What have I got to lose.

        Dear Stuart Sternberg,

        I have your solution. You and your team leave St. Pete. Defect as it were. The perfect city awaits. Population 2.1 million. Baseball crazy residents. 55,000 seat ballpark. Government may even kick in to spruce it up a bit. Imagine a stadium filled with 55,000 boisterous, loud fans every game! Playing in this city would make you a pioneer. A legend! You’d go down in the history books with Jackie Robinson!

        However, forget about the luxury boxes and premium club seating. Gouging patrons, it’s a strict “No, No.” As for profits, you would be restricted to MLB TV monies.

        On second thought, forget I mentioned it. You’re in this for profit. Not the fans. Not championships. Not the history books.

        Havana Rays

  5. I still favor if a stadium can be built in Montreal is Tampa splits time between TB and MIAMI as a NL city and Miami heads north as a AL city plating Toronto

      1. Hand in air. The practically prehistoric are among you.

        Shhhh! I remember the Cincinnati Royals as well.

  6. Why is St Pete still fighting this? If the land is so valuable to redevelop, why not come up with a separation agreement and everyone move on?

    1. It’s a good question. I doubt this is actually the case, but it is just possible that Kriseman and co are putting up a good show for the public while patiently waiting for Sternberg to announce he is giving up on Tampa and will walk at the end of his lease.

      I guess that’s more of a hope than a legitimate belief for me, but it’s there regardless.

    2. There is conflicting information as to what Kriseman wants to do with the land. There is also conflicting information as to whether the land is all that valuable

      1. Hard to see how extremely low elevation coastal Florida land is worth anything given that some is already subject to clear weather flooding.

        1. The land in question is 25 feet above sea level in the middle of St. Pete. It is extremely valuable.

          The fact is that as a resident of St. Pete, we own Stu’s butt until 2027. For the type of owner he is, I hope we stick to our guns. Stu has to play 7 more seasons at 81 games a year. If he wants out, he can probably buy his way out. I think a good starting price is $2 million per owed game.

      2. I don’t see how there is any “conflict” in what the St Pete pols want to do. They want to clear the site and sell the land for development. They may have several different ideas about what they want built there, and may be willing to take less money from a developer willing to play to their whims (which is quite common in land development).

        What is not in question is that the land has significant value (sea level rise or not) and that it’s highest and best use is not as a baseball stadium that is empty most of the year.

  7. Since sports leagues universally lay claim to any non host cities as “existing territory we own that has not been allotted a franchise yet”, I am very much looking forward to Manfred (when he has finished dealing with this messy business about a team cheating it’s way to two world series appearances in the last three years and a world championship) issuing the terms under which the Rays/ExRays will hold two MLB markets.

    The last sale of a non-tier 1 MLB team I can recall was the sale of the Nats by the league for, IIRC, $450m in 2005. More recently the Cubs and Dodgers have changed hands for approx $900m and $2bn respectively.

    So what will “Tampa Bay Mont-Real” ownership have to pay MLB for the rights to a second market? It’s got to be at least half the price of a notional expansion team (for Montreal or elsewhere), surely?

    The bottom 8 MLB teams have (Forbes) values ranging from $900m to $1.2bn… If you except the bottom 5 and top 5 markets as being outliers, the average of the remaining team values is about $1.4Bn. This number also happens to be the median franchise value (#15 Seattle $1.45B; #16 Toronto $1.35B) in MLB as of 2018.

  8. I repeat last week’s comment.

    Just the facts. Montreal Expo average attendance per season.

    1998. 11,295.
    1999. 9,547.
    2000. 11,435.
    2001. 7,935.
    2002. 10,025.
    2003. 12,662.
    2004. 9,369.

    Overall Average. 10,324.

    I can see why you “would” want to play half the season in Montreal, given these season average attendance numbers?

    1. Even during the periods when the Expos were competitive year after year (late 1970s to early 1980s) avg attendance never rose higher than 28k and change.

      That was over the MLB average at the time, but this market will not be a big money maker by any means. Certainly Montreal is larger now than it was then and generally more affluent (Canada has it’s 1% problem too), but MLB tickets can’t be had for $3 any longer.

      1. It could be about as meh a market as Tampa Bay. But then we’re back to “Sternberg is just angling for the first city to offer him a stadium.”

        1. Yep. And if he gets a newish shiny stadium in Montreal (or elsewhere) and the price of getting that is playing a few games at Legends or wherever after redevelopment of the Trop parcel, I’m sure he’ll be fine with it.

          I am secretly hoping that he is working on a deal behind the scenes to play 20 home games at the new stadium in Miami (as a paying tenant of course… this is Loria we are talking about) and outdraws the Marlins in their own stadium as the (allegedly) hated intra state rival.

      2. Bruce Sherman and ex NY Yankee Derek Jeter. Yeah, like that made a dif!


      3. All valid. Comments above. No disagreement from me (decided best to hold my leftest tongue, I mean comment, yesterday).

        However, believe the Montreal “Expo” experiment is now relegated to the pages of history. Despite Manfred’s pronouncement Montreal is one of six possible MLB expansion cities.

        If I’m Stuart though, I’m loving this. All this buzz about my “Rays.” Where the next stadium is to be built (and read not by me) for my team to play. Because personally, referring to Stuart here, I could care less.

        Petrograd, I mean St. Petersburg, still wants me. Tampa wants me. Central Florida, Orlando, wants me. Montreal wants me. It’s like chumming the waters. Eventually, I will get a shark, I mean stadium.

        The one thing a billionaire professional franchise owner hates when speaking is the sound of crickets (no one listening). It’s like the old EF Hutton advertisements. I expect heads to turn and people to listen when my name is mentioned!

  9. Question.

    As a billionaire owner of a professional sports franchise, whose purpose in life is to make more billions, why would I want to place my professional sports franchise in a city that previously failed in its support of another billionaire owner’s professional sports franchise in that very same sport?

    1. Here’s another question.

      Previous comment.

      “Completely agree.

      The comments on that 2016 piece were even more classless and uncalled for.

      Seems like a lot of people who comment here do it to feel superior. Not surprising given the current sports culture, and that’s all I’ll say about that.“

      Why in h-e-double hockey sticks are you reading this site?

      1. If you are looking for puffery on the newest stadium being built in your city or your professional sports franchise, why not read your local newspaper sports page, listen to your local sports talk radio, watch your local sports on your local news channel or visit your Chamber of Commerce. They will surely give you all the good vibes and fluff you could ever want.
      2. The editor of this site is a 30 year expect as to all aspects, behind the scenes back room wheeling and dealing, that goes on with the public subsidy of professional sports stadiums in this nation, supported by numerous economists and their studies of economic impacts of sports stadiums on communities.
      3. The millions (:-) of readers on this site are in agreement with positions presented by both the editor, as well as other commentators (shout out to John B) on the site. I know I read articles on sites I strongly disagree with just so long as I may post a comment to that affect. No. No, I don’t. It is a waste of time and energy. I am not going to effect the opinions of the readers on that site. And I certainly don’t need to do so in an effort to feed my own ego or feel good about myself having done the “right” thing.

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