Bernard Glieberman - Biography
Bernard "Bernie" Glieberman (b. Detroit, Michigan) is an American real estate mogul and the president of Crosswinds Communities. Despite having made his fortune in real estate, Glieberman was perhaps best known for, with his son Lonie, making several unsuccessful and controversial forays into sports team ownership and management in the Canadian Football League.
Glieberman's father died when Glieberman was 17 years old, and after this the young Bernard took over control of his family real estate holdings. He became a partner in a real estate firm when he was twenty-one, and at thirty-one he was able to buy out his partner's shares. By 1971, he had started the Crosswinds Communities corporation, which he runs and in which he is the sole shareholder to this day.
From 1991 to 2006, Glieberman was involved as the financier of several football operations in Canada and the United States. Glieberman put up the money while Lonie usually handled media relations and football operations. These operations proved controversial and invariably died within a few seasons.
The Rough Riders and Shreveport
In 1991, Glieberman and his son arrived in Ottawa to bail out the troubled Ottawa Rough Riders franchise. The team was losing money (and would, indeed, fold before the decade was out) and was over C$1 million in debt. With his son as the franchise's frontman, Bernie bought the team for a dollar, assumed the debt, and provided the capital city's team with what must have seemed like stable ownership.
However, relations between the Gliebermans, the league, and its fans soon soured. Bernie merely provided the money but Lonie was making controversial and unpopular moves. In 1993, the younger Glieberman fired general manager Dan Rambo while ordering the team to sign and play former National Football League Pro Bowl defensive lineman Dexter Manley, despite his skills having faded and a cocaine habit which had caused him to be banned from the NFL. Lonie also mandated that players cut during the team's training camp be signed again, driving away assistant coaches Jim Daley and Mike Roach. Meanwhile, Bernie made noises about moving the team to the United States, further driving down enthusiasm.
The CFL let it be known that it would not even consider allowing one of its longest-standing franchises to move south of the border. Eventually, Glieberman agreed to a deal in which he split the franchise in half. The Canadian half that retained the Rough Riders name, colours and history. Glieberman kept the American half, which became the Shreveport Pirates as part of the ill-fated CFL USA expansion. The Pirates went 8–28 over two seasons. Glieberman initially attempted to stay in for the long haul, trying to move the team to Norfolk, Virginia. However, city officials were put out upon discovering that Glieberman had faced a number of lawsuits over his CFL career for not paying the bills.
All-American Football League
After the failure of his CFL experience, Glieberman tried again in football. In 1997, Glieberman, John Ritchie, and former Shreveport coach Forrest Gregg started the All-American Football League with the objective of playing by March 1998. Glieberman planned to play a 20-game season in the spring and summer, buy television time from networks, and make money by having the league sell the advertising rather than the network. The league would be a single-owner entity in much the same vein as the early days of Major League Soccer. The league also planned to have players directed to markets where they might be popular.
Despite Glieberman's ambitions and some minor media attention, the league never got off the ground. The league's plans included teams in Dallas, New York, Los Angeles, Detroit, Chicago, Philadelphia, Houston, San Francisco, Miami, Boston, Washington, and Tampa.
Return to Ottawa
In May 2005, Glieberman resurfaced in the CFL, purchasing the Ottawa Renegades after a season in which the league had financed the team. Lonie was once again installed as team president. The Renegades had struggled both financially and in the standings almost since their inception, and few parties were interested in running the team, leaving the CFL little choice but to turn to the Gliebermans.
The first move made by the Gliebermans was to bring 71-year old Forrest Gregg into the system after the latter had spent a decade away from professional football. Gregg did not help his own cause, forgetting starting quarterback Kerry Joseph's name during a radio interview. Lonie's Mardi Gras promotion of trying to lure women to Renegades games by offering them beads (a reward traditionally given in the celebration for the baring of breasts) was also criticized. Before the Renegades' final game of the 2005 season, Lonie announced the firing of head coach Joe Paopao and his staff, leaving them to coach the final game knowing that it would be their last. The Renegades missed the playoffs.
On March 2, 2006, Lonie resigned his post with the Renegades, leading to speculation that Bernie Glieberman would sell. The Renegades lost $3.8 million in 2005 but Glieberman agreed to continue operating the Renegades if the team received a $2 million loan from the league. This proposal was rejected and, unable to find a buyer after Glieberman backed out on March 22, the Renegades suspended operations for the 2006 season.