- The Washington Times - Friday, October 1, 2004

MONTREAL — Like many people, Tony Tavares has a list of things to do.

Tavares’ list, however, is 12 pages long — single-spaced — and divided into two goals: closing down one major league baseball franchise and starting up a new one.

“We have to shut down a business here, and then we have to basically start up a new franchise since we are going to a place where there hasn’t been baseball for 33 years,” said Tavares, the president of the Montreal Expos.

The Expos’ move to Washington presents some unique challenges for Tavares, the former president of the Anaheim Angels who took over operations of the Expos three years ago when Major League Baseball purchased the team from Jeffrey Loria.

One of the unique, and ironic, things on Tavares’ to-do list is to figure out how much money Loria — one of the most hated figures in Montreal baseball history — owes Expos employees. Some of the workers may get a little satisfaction because Loria likely will write them checks.

“There is a reconciliation that has to take place between Jeffrey Loria and us concerning the severance for many of the employees,” Tavares said. “We pick up three years of it, but if you had an employee that had been here for 27 years, he would have to pick up 24 years worth of severance pay.”

Tavares also must determine which employees will stay with the franchise after it moves to Washington. That presents him with thorny immigration issues because it is difficult to get a work visa here. Then Tavares must find new employees in Washington.

“We have to shut down a business here, which means taking many of our Canadian employees and … giving them severance pay and understanding all the legal ramifications, such as how many weeks do you have to give, how much notice,” Tavares said. “We have to find out who we can bring and who we can’t. Anybody that we are bringing in that is Canadian — we don’t have many — but we have to be concerned about visas.”

Tavares must determine not just who will come to Washington but also what will come.

“We have physical assets we own here in the stadium,” he said. “We own a lot of concession equipment. We own office equipment here. We have to evaluate whether we transfer a lot of this stuff across the border and use it on an interim basis at RFK or do we try to dispose of it up here. What are the duty issues? We have to deal with that.”

Then there are deals and accounts in Montreal that must be closed.

“We have contracts for the Catcher’s Club that we have to refund, sort of like golf memberships, if you think of it that way,” Tavares said. “We have to cancel insurance policies.

“All of that is for this marketplace, and my guess is that it will take by the end of November or beginning of December for that. We have accounting systems in Canadian dollars. We have to cancel bank accounts here.”

Tavares simultaneously must start up the Expos’ operation in Washington. He said it’s unlikely baseball will select the owners for the franchise before the end of the year, and he speculated the transfer could drag on to May or June. Baseball will stage what essentially is an auction for the Expos.

“My instructions are to go and get this started,” Tavares said. “We have to get into the new marketplace and start selling tickets, selling sponsorships and try to get the market juiced about the team being there.

“I have to put together a marketing and sales staff, hire secretaries, get an operation going in the U.S., and in addition to all that, I have to be mindful that a new owner will be coming in at some point.”

And that’s not the end of it.

“We have to negotiate concessions agreements, novelty agreements, ticketing agreements, maybe get some temporary office space if the space at RFK is not going to be ready right off the bat,” Tavares said. “This is no small task, and I have to be mindful about not making too many long-term commitments that the new owner may or may not like since I don’t know who that is.”

And what of Tavares? What happens when all his work is done and a new owner takes over?

“I don’t know what I will do,” he said. “You can’t tell me who will own the team, and I don’t know if the guy has three sons or two stepsons. I don’t know if he wants to be involved in the day-to-day running of the business. All I can do is treat it like my business and be prudent and fiscally responsible.”

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