Canadian billionaire Steve Apostolopoulos bidding for Washington Commanders
In 2009, Toronto real-estate developer Andreas Apostolopoulos shocked the U.S. sports community by purchasing an 80,000-seat football stadium in the Detroit suburbs for the rock-bottom price of just US$583,000.
A generation later, son Steve Apostolopoulos is shaking up pro sports with an audacious move at the other end of the spectrum. Where his late father snagged a bargain, his Harvard University-educated offspring will potentially set a new high-water mark for the value of a professional franchise, as one of two bidders offering more than US$6-billion for the National Football League’s Washington Commanders.
In vying for an NFL team, the formerly low-profile Apostolopoulos is striving for membership in the most exclusive of clubs, as an owner of a pro sports franchise. If he buys the Commanders, the son of a Greek immigrant will be rubbing shoulders with heirs to the Walmart fortune, who acquired the Denver Broncos last summer for a record US$4.65-billion, and hedge fund billionaire David Tepper, who acquired the Carolina Panthers in 2018 for a then-record US$2.2-billion.
To buy the Commanders, Apostolopoulos will need to outbid a group led by Josh Harris, co-founder of Apollo Global Management, one of the world’s largest alternative asset funds. Harris already owns the National Basketball Association’s Philadelphia 76ers and a stake in the National Hockey League’s New Jersey Devils and is worth an estimated US$7-billion.
Over the past 18 months, Apostolopoulos has built a relationship with NBA player agent Bernie Lee, president of Thread Sports Management LTD. In an interview, Lee said the real-estate executive has done the work needed to succeed as a team owner.
“Steve has immersed himself in the inner workings of pro sports, from understanding players and team management to the big-picture issues around the league,” said Lee, who represents basketball stars Jimmy Butler and Ben Simmons. “Steve’s business and people skills are comparable to, or exceed, those of any sports owner I’ve meet.”
Prior to turning his attention to the NFL, Apostolopoulos was one of several bidders on a stake owner Michael Jordan is selling in the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets.
Apostolopoulos’s wealth comes from commercial and industrial real estate that he owns with his two older brothers, Jim and Peter, through a private company called the Triple Properties. The portfolio includes office towers in Detroit, movie studios and a 40-acre complex near Toronto anchored by the Pickering Casino Resort. Apostolopoulos did not respond Wednesday to an interview request.
TriBro Studios, the family’s collection of sound stages in the Toronto area, count Disney, Bell Media and Netflix as clients. The studios include an industrial site, ‘The Pit,’ that can be flooded and serves as a backdrop for science fiction, horror and action shoots.
In Pickering, Triple used a casino run by Great Canadian Entertainment as the anchor for a larger development featuring a hotel, restaurants and a concert venue that will play host to singer Bryan Adams in April. Apostolopoulos, along with potential lenders that include Royal Bank of Canada, see a similar real-estate play in Washington’s football team, which current owner Daniel Snyder acquired in 1999 for US$800-million, according to two sources familiar with the potential buyer’s plans.
Washington’s current stadium, FedEx Field, opened in 1997 and is considered dated. Snyder owns the property and has proposed moving to a new site within the city, or in nearby Maryland or Virginia. Redevelopment plans were put on hold after the NFL fined Snyder US$10-million in 2021 following an investigation into sexual harassment and other workplace issues at the Commanders. Last November, Snyder announced he would sell all or part of the team.
If he wins the auction, Apostolopoulos plans to build a new stadium near Washington and redevelop FedEx Field and the team’s practice facility in Virginia, potentially making US$1-billion on the real estate, according to sources. They said the Commanders consistently turn a profit on television revenues, and are expected to increase revenues from ticket and merchandise sales if a new owner can restore fan interest in a former marquee franchise that has won three Super Bowls.
The Commanders – rebranded in 2022 after Snyder yielded to years of protests over the name Redskins – had the lowest home attendance in the NFL last year, selling 85 per cent of seats. No other team sold less than 92 per cent of tickets to home games.
Along with real estate, Apostolopoulos runs a private equity fund, Six Ventures Inc. One of the fund’s investments is credit card and expense management company Caary Capital, which services small to medium-sized businesses. As part of Caary’s launch, Apostolopoulos offered advice to entrepreneurs.
“You will get 1,000 defeats in business. Every time you get defeated, it will make you stronger. Stay with it. Keep rolling. Don’t give up,” he said. “Oh, and don’t do bad deals.”
In Pontiac, Mich., Apostolopoulos’s father acquired the former home of the NFL’s Detroit Lions – the Silverdome – by making a lowball offer in an auction for the city-owned stadium after the football team moved downtown. The new owner paid less than 2 per cent of the building’s US$55-million construction cost in 1975.
The Apostolopoulos family revived the abandoned facility by booking boxing, monster truck shows and concerts. However, the Silverdome’s roof partly collapsed in 2013 after a snowfall, and the building was torn down in 2017. Triple enticed Amazon into opening a warehouse on the site in 2021, the same year Andreas Apostolopoulos passed away at the age of 69.
Heirs to Canadian real-estate fortunes are also among the leading contenders to acquire the NHL’s Ottawa Senators, which went up for sale last November following the death of owner Eugene Melnyk.
The Toronto-based Kimel family, who run developer Harlo Capital, Vaughan-based Remington Group president Christopher Bratty and Ottawa-based Roger Greenberg, executive chair of Minto Group, have all shown interest in the Senators. The club could fetch more than US$900-million, the highest price paid for an NHL team, with the new owner expected to attempt to increase the club’s revenues by moving from the suburbs to a new, downtown arena.
Sail Canada says coach fired because lack of money, not pregnancy
Lisa Ross wants her job back.
The two-time Olympic sailor for Canada was named to the national sailing team’s coaching staff three years ago.
Nine days after telling Sail Canada in March she was pregnant and would take maternity leave later this year, Ross was fired.
Ross was in Andora, Italy, where she’d been coaching Canadian sailors at the European championship. She was about to head to Spain for more competitions and training camps.
The 46-year-old from Mahone Bay, N.S., said during the March 17 video call with Sail Canada’s chief executive officer Don Adams and high-performance director Mike Milner, she was told to pack her bags and return to Canada.
“It was strange and shocking,” Ross told The Canadian Press. “It was a five-minute phone call where I was fired, basically, without cause.
“I was in Europe. I was in the middle of a planned six-week trip.”
Sail Canada said lack of money, and not Ross’s pregnancy, was the reason for her firing.
“Sail Canada terminated Lisa Ross’s contract for financial reasons which had nothing to do with Lisa Ross being pregnant,” the organization said in a statement to The Canadian Press.
“Discussions and the decision to terminate Lisa Ross’s contract took place well before she verbally informed Sail Canada high performance director that she was pregnant.
$80,000 annual salary
Sail Canada said Ross’s salary was supported by Sport Canada Gender Equity funding, which was eliminated at the end of the 2021-2022 fiscal year.
“Sail Canada was able to maintain Lisa Ross’s position in the next fiscal year through the Return to Sport funding program but, unfortunately, that funding is no longer available in 2023-2024,” the organization said.
Ross’s annual salary was $80,000. The federal government renewed its funding for gender equity in sport in October with a commitment of $25.3 million over three years.
“This is not available at present, but we have been informed it may be some time in the future,” Sail Canada said in a statement. “We do not know if female coaching will be part of the areas of funding.
Sail Canada said it made its decision to fire Ross “because of financial reasons based on the information available at the time of budget finalization.”
I would have liked the opportunity, if funding was the issue, to visit any possibility of ensuring I can continue in my role …— Former Sail Canada coach Lisa Ross on her firing
“With the 2023-2024 Olympic season fast approaching, and in order for Sail Canada to prioritize Olympic hopefuls and maintain a balanced budget, Sail Canada has to make drastic cuts to its high-performance budget.”
Sail Canada said it sought a Nova Scotia labour lawyer’s advice on Feb. 21 to vet the decision to dismiss Ross.
Ross departed for Europe at the end of February and had no inkling her job was on the chopping block until she was sacked March 17.
“I just would have liked the opportunity, if funding was the issue, to visit any possibility of ensuring that I can continue in my role as one of the more senior coaches on the staff,” Ross said.
Sail Canada said it waited until after the European championship March 10-17 to fire her “so that it would not become a distraction for the athletes.”
Another female hired on contract basis
Ross was the only woman on Sail Canada’s technical staff of a high-performance director and coaches.
Since her dismissal, Rosie Chapman was hired on a contract basis.
Chapman is partially subsidized by athletes and costs 20 per cent of a full-time salary, Sail Canada said.
Ross competed for Canada in 2004 in Athens in women’s three-person keelboat and 2008 in Beijing in women’s dinghy.
She coached laser sailor Brenda Bowskill at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Ross was named the Canadian sailing team’s development coach in 2020, but she coached the senior men’s laser team that year.
Ross didn’t coach at Tokyo’s Olympics in 2021. She was on maternity leave with her second child.
She was coaching the 49er FX women’s development team when she was fired. Her third child is due Sept. 1.
She’d planned to continue coaching until August when she could no longer fly.
Ross intended to be back with the athletes in time for January’s world championship and to help prepare them for the 2024 Olympics in Paris. She says she communicated that plan to Sail Canada the day she told the organization she was pregnant.
Milner replied that same day: “You should also know Rosie and I have been talking on and off for more than a year on joining our team and I think this is a great opportunity for the girls while you are on mat leave.”
Lawsuit not filed against Sail Canada
Milner also wrote in that email to Ross that his “initial thought” would be to have Chapman become the international coach after April’s Princess Sofia or Hyeres regattas “and focus you on domestic training.”
Ross has filed claims with Nova Scotia’s Labour Standards Board and Human Rights Commission but has not sued Sail Canada.
“I’m not asking for a massive amount of money,” Ross said. “I’m asking for my job back.”
The World Sailing Trust recently launched a half-dozen recommendations under an initiative called Project Juno to “support better maternity policies in sailing.”
While Sail Canada insists her pregnancy did not cost Ross her job, it says the organization has pregnancy and parental leave policy “that is in keeping with the Ontario Employment Standards Act” and subject to Sport Canada’s Athletes Assistance Program policies and procedures.
Ross says she has never seen that policy.
She hasn’t filed a complaint with the Office of the Sport Integrity Commissioner (OSIC), which was established almost a year ago to administer Canadian sport’s universal code of conduct. Sail Canada is a signatory to OSIC.
“I want my job back, so I want to focus on that,” Ross said. “I want to be a part of the sport system that I’ve been a part of since I was 17.
“I went to my first Pan Am Games when I was 17. It’s been a scary process to go through, just even with my relationship with Sail Canada because that’s been a huge part of my life and I want that to continue.”
Jubilant Latvians given national holiday after shock ice hockey win over USA
Latvians woke up to go to work Monday morning, only to find they didn’t have to. Their parliament had met at midnight to declare a holiday after the national ice hockey team chalked up its best result at the world championship.
Latvia, where hockey is hugely popular, co-hosted the men’s championship with Finland, and the country’s 4-3 overtime victory over the United States for the bronze medal on Sunday was greeted with jubilation.
A plane bringing the team home from Finland flew at low altitude over central Riga on Monday to greet thousands of fans who had gathered to welcome the squad.
At quarter to midnight on Sunday, members of parliament, sporting red-and-white national team jerseys, convened for a 10-minute session to unanimously declare the holiday.
It was “to strengthen the fact of significant success of Latvian athletes in the social memory of the society,” according to the bill’s sponsors.
The bill was introduced by a smiling member of parliament with her face painted in the colors of the national flag. Another giggled while trying to read out the names of absent parliamentarians, to laughter from many in the hall. There was an ovation from everyone present after the final vote.
But as dawn broke, there was confusion about who was working and who was not. Court hearings were canceled and schools and universities were closed, but national exams for high school students went ahead, with staff paid at holiday rates. Several hospitals chose to stay open to honor doctor appointments.
Businesses found themselves in some disarray, with Aigars Rostovskis, the president of the Latvian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, telling public broadcaster LSM: “It will be chaos for many.”
Canada won the gold medal, the team’s record 28th world title, by defeating Germany 5-2 on Sunday.
Kamloops Blazers rout Peterborough Petes 10-2 in Memorial Cup
KAMLOOPS, British Columbia — Logan Stankoven had a goal and four assists, Connor Levis had a goal and two assists and the Kamloops Blazers routed the Ontario Hockey League champion Peterborough Petes 10-2 in the Memorial Cup on Sunday.
The win came after Kamloops defenseman Kyle Masters was taken off the ice on a stretcher after he was hit and fell backward into the corner boards with less than seven minutes remaining. There was no immediate word on Masters’ condition.
Ryan Michael, Fraser Minten, Ashton Ferster, Matthew Seminoff, Dylan Sydor, Jakub Demek, Matthew Seminoff and Ryan Hofer each scored goals for the Blazers, who bounced back from an 8-3 loss to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League champion Quebec Remparts on Friday night.
Caedan Bankier and Olen Zellweger also added two assists each for the Blazers, who scored four power-play goals and improved to 1-1 in the four-team, 10-day tournament.
Peterborough dropped to 0-2 and must beat Quebec on Tuesday to advance.
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