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Feterik injects unwanted intrigue

Bruce Dowbiggin

Calgary Herald

Friday, January 07, 2005

Mike Feterik will not go gently into that good night.

Even with his disposal of the Calgary Stampeders looming, the Corrugated Box King of SoCal is still raging against the dying of his light, this time in the form of his sale of the club to local investors.

Like almost everything else he's done as the owner of the team, his courting of an alternative buyer is likely to do more harm than good.

As reported Wednesday by Grant Pollock of Global TV, recreational-vehicle dealer Bruce Urban was entertained on New Year's Eve in Feterik's offices in Los Angeles. The two men were not handicapping the Rose Bowl. Instead, they spoke of Urban's desire to own the Stampeders -- a team that Feterik has already entered into an agreement to sell to a group including Calgary businessmen John Forzani and Ted Hellard.

Urban says Feterik assured him during their meeting that the long-rumoured sale of the club to Forzani/ Hellard is not a done deal. While the two men never discussed a price, Urban was given the distinct impression the current bid had some fatal flaw -- not necessarily financial -- that would re-open the bidding process.

So while the Forzani/ Hellard lawyers and accountants have been doing their due diligence (such a lovely phrase) over the past several weeks, Urban has been encouraged by Feterik to think he's still a player in the transfer of the team to a new ownership. Part of this encouragement seems to have come in the form of a hint that if president Ron Rooke and GM/ head coach Matt Dunigan were retained, Feterik would look favourably upon Urban.

This, of course, is a veiled reference to the stories the current administration will be punted if the sale to the Forzani/ Hellard group goes through -- a reference that gained momentum when Rooke cleared out his desk at McMahon Stadium this week.

Urban was also led to believe the due diligence (that phrase again!) process is taking an inordinate amount of time, indicating there is trouble in the Forzani/ Hellard group. The intimation being that if he held on long enough, Urban would be in the driver's seat for getting the club.

(Fans with short memories should cast back to 2001 when the sale from Sig Gutsche to Feterik seemed to take longer than the Ming Dynasty. While nothing about this sale is guaranteed, a deliberate vetting of the books is a good, not a bad, thing and indicative of owners who are serious about their purchase.)

So there, at the penultimate moment, you have Feterik employing his unique managerial style once again to meddle in a process he'd agreed upon in good faith with interested, qualified purchasers. But I suppose it's what we've come to expect from the hand that brought us Fred Fateri, KevinGate, Dunigan's Follies etc.

Why is he doing this? Perhaps he wants to partner with Urban somehow, keeping his ownership and his hired management alive with a local partner who seems to be sympatico with him. Stamps fans don't need to be told what this could mean at so many levels. Perhaps he needs his money quickly and wants to hurry the process along. Perhaps he's so fond of Rooke and Dunigan that he'll make a principled stand. Yeah, right . . .

None of this should be taken as criticism of Urban, who honestly feels he's not being used. As he told Pollock on Wednesday, he's a diehard Stamps fan who has harboured the dream of owning his favourite football team. Urban's got a McMahon pedigree: he once worked the stadium selling concessions as a young man.

He'd clearly would like to own the Stamps -- so much so that he earlier contacted the Forzani/ Hellard group about joining them in a partnership. When he was turned down, Urban moved his focus to owning the club outright. That meant the meeting with Feterik this past Friday night, a meeting so clandestine Urban was letting the world know about it within a week -- with Mike's blessing.

For the Forzani/ Hellard people, this will all be publicity they didn't want or ask for. If it were me, I'd tell Feterik to take his deal and stick it in his corrugated box. But they're smarter business people than me, and will likely soldier on, paying more than it's worth just to get rid of the past three years of mismanagement.

As for Feterik, well, let's end where we began this piece -- with Dylan Thomas. His words are the best epitaph for this saga.

"Though wise men at their end know dark is right, Because their words had forked no lightning they Do not go gentle into that good night."

A(c) The Calgary Herald 2005

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