Ted Hellard Profile
Originally published in Calgary Living, Luxury Lifestyle magazine Summer 2005
New ownership, new management, new players – new everything. The new Web site: www.stampeders.com says it all.
This is a great storied franchise. Five Grey Cups and six-time runners up, the Calgary Stampeders will celebrate its 60th year of operations this September. However, its recent history is fraught with abysmal discord.
The team finished 4-14 at the bottom of the Canadian Football League in 2004. Under owner Michael Feterik, the club fielded a revolving door on three head coaches, three general managers, three presidents, and posted a 15-39 record.
Enter Ted Hellard. His company, Critical Mass, grew from nothing and most certainly, that’s what the new ownership group is working with here. For a reported purchase price starting at $6.5 million, Hellard, John Forzani, Doug Mitchell, Matt Brister, Robert Peters, Bob Viccars, David Sapunjis, plus five anonymous members have become the CS Partnership, the operating company for the Calgary Stampeders.
The decision was made on a golf course with John Forzani and Doug Mitchell. “We initially tried to purchase the club in 2003,” says Hellard. However, the group didn’t like where the team was headed when Matt Dunigan replaced Jim Barker as head coach. They backed off.
After the 2004 season, Hellard discussed taking over the helm with his family and the expected media scrutiny that came with it. Then he made his move.
The mess was bigger than the new owners could have anticipated. Their hands were full at making the club more functional from every standpoint. “I was surprised at the lack of traditional business principals implied within the organization. The business has been run like this for some time.”
While half the battle was trying to get a handle on the balance sheet, the new President/CEO and his executive members didn’t waste any time in restructuring. In cleaning out the old regime, Matt Dunnigan was punted as head coach and Ron Rooke balked at a downgrade from president to a marketing role.
Hellard brought over some of his best talent from Critical Mass and reinserted some welcome and familiar faces. Stan Schwartz was hired as a consultant to Hellard; Jim Barker was general manager, in charge of player personnel; Tom Higgins was the new head coach and vice president of football operations; Steve Buratto returned as offensive coordinator, but that’s not all.
Thanks to the signing of former Saskatchewan Roughrider Henry Burris and Darnell Kennedy from Ottawa, the Kevin Feterik quarterback controversy officially ended. Their jobs were made easier with the signing of former Montreal Alouettes receiver Jeremaine Copeland, who caught for 2,911 yards in past two seasons.
There were added ticket sales and shiny new jerseys. Former Stampeder Basil Bark took over the Stamps Store and expanded the merchandise to include opposition items. New partnerships were developed: an eight-year deal with Pepsi, Calgary Flames Food and Beverage Group, Avison Young Commercial Real Estate, and potential naming rights deal for the stadium.
But perhaps the most anticipated partnership was the minority ownership of the Calgary Flames Limited Partnership. “We’ve been in contact with the Flames since we pursued the Stampeders,” says Hellard. “The Flames bring us experience we didn’t have. We think we can learn and leverage from that. It’s really on the business side where this relationship will have the biggest and strongest impact.”
Buying the club wasn’t an investment for fruitful gains. There was no logical investment of dollars and potential return. It’s about re-establishing a fabric of Calgary’s community – bringing pride back into Calgary’s football team.
As for the man at the helm, Hellard enjoys the challenge. But how long will he stay in this 15-hour a day volunteer position? “I’ll stop when I’m not having fun.”