Claude Brochu

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Claude Brochu

Biographical Information[edit]

From 1991 to 1999, Claude Brochu was the head of the ownership group controlling the Montreal Expos.

Brochu had become president of the Expos in 1986, replacing John McHale. He was a senior executive at Seagram, the liquor company owned by Charles Bronfman, the Expos' owner, when he was offered the job with the baseball team. It was part of Bronfman's attempt to build stronger links with the local community, as almost all of the team's executives until then were transplanted Americans. Brochu quickly became the face of ownership. He was known for two things in those early years: continually decrying the state of Stade Olympique in the hope of having some level of government pay for improvements or, preferably, a new ballpark (and also blaming fans for not showing up in large enough numbers); and for firing Murray Cook on short notice after his General Manager had apparently had an affair with his wife.

In 1989, tired with the fractious state of Major League Baseball at the time, Bronfman put the Expos up for sale. Given the economic uncertainties around MLB at the time and the poor state of the Canadian economy generally and that of Montreal more specifically, the only indications of interest he received were from outsiders, whose longer-term goal was to move the Expos out of Montreal. Bronfman was not prepared to allow that and instead decided to loan some money to Brochu to become the lead partner in a new ownership group, backed with some local minority investors. The sale went ahead in 1991, but the group was severely under-capitalized from the get-go.

At first, the new owners managed to overcome this handicap because the Expos had built a very solid, sabermetrically-inclined organization and this allowed young executives Dave Dombrowski and Dan Duquette to build a young powerhouse team. They were poised to take over the world in 1994 when the strike brought everything crashing down. Pleading poverty, Brochu decided to protect his bottom line rather than try to build on the base he had put together, stripping the team's main assets in a fire sale just after the strike was resolved in early 1995. That season was disastrous as expected, but the Expos had accumulated so many assets in previous years that they managed to return to being competitive in 1996 and early 1997, before the accumulation of one-sided trades that were simply aimed at cutting costs finally took their toll. The Expos were awful on the field for the remainder of the decade.

However, Brochu had been forced to seek some additional capital and managed to bring in Jacques Ménard, a local banker, who was named team President. Ménard helped put together a plan for a downtown stadium that seemed to promise a brighter future for the team. Brochu clashed repeatedly with Ménard, who was more popular with local journalists and with government representatives, and eventually Ménard, who had had enough, slammed the door. Brochu then turned to outsiders, making the fatal decision to invite New York, NY art dealer Jeffrey Loria as an investor. He sold his shares to Loria, who convinced some additional local partners, including Charles Bronfman's son Stephen Bronfman to come in as minority investors, and the purchase was completed late in 1999. Brochu then wrote a very self-serving memoir in which he blamed everyone but himself for the sad turn of events. By then, it had become clear to everyone that Loria had been a Trojan horse for the team's relocation, which took place after the 2004 season. Brochu remains widely reviled - along with Loria - by Expos fans for causing the demise of what had been a very successful franchise until he had taken it over from the elder Bronfman.

Further Reading[edit]

  • Claude Brochu, Daniel Poulin and Marco Leduc: La Saga des Expos: Brochu s'explique, Libre Expression, Montreal, QC, 2001. (translated to English as My Turn at the Bat: the Sad Saga of the Expos, ECW Press, Toronto, ON, 2002).
  • Danny Gallagher and Bill Young: "Claude Brochu: Time for a Second Look" (parts 1, 2 and 3), in Remembering the Montreal Expos, Scoop Press, Toronto, ON, 2005, pp. 141-151, 194-205 and 222-231.

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