Local entrepreneur Carlo LiVolsi is the potential buyer looking to revive the financially troubled Toronto Wolfpack.
Team officials confirmed that LiVolsi is the proposed new owner who was introduced to Super League officials earlier this week. Previously the transatlantic rugby league club had only said the potential buyer is a Canadian who had been part of the original ownership group.
LiVolsi’s business ventures include Wolf Grooming, a Canadian company that signed on as the Wolfpack’s “official grooming product” in March 2019. At the time, the team called LiVolsi the founder of Wolf Grooming.
He is also listed as a director of the Apollo Health Corp, formerly known as Acasta Enterprises Inc.
The Wolfpack stood down on July 20 citing financial problems prompted by the pandemic. Unable to fund the team, majority owner David Argyle announced he was stepping away from the franchise which has not paid its players since June 10.
Argyle has said he will make good on the missed payrolls when he is in a position to do so.
Hungry for Super League return
Toronto met a Super League-imposed deadline last Tuesday to submit its reapplication paperwork. Super League tore up the Wolfpack’s participation agreement after the club opted not to finish out the 2020 season, citing challenges caused by the pandemic.
The Wolfpack started life in England’s third-tier League 1 in 2017, winning their way first to the second-tier Championship and then Super League — where they were 0-6-0 when the pandemic halted play in March.
Argyle has said the ownership group has poured $30 million into the Wolfpack since its inception.
In the absence of Toronto, Super League is down to 11 teams — 10 from England and France’s Catalan Dragons.
The Wolfpack hope they can return to Super League in 2021 — and for the first time get their share of central distribution funding which includes a cut of the broadcast revenue from the league’s Sky TV deal.
While star players like Sonny Bill Williams (Sydney Roosters) and Ricky Leutele (Melbourne Storm) have signed loan deals with other clubs to finish out the 2020 season, McDermott says both are committed to the franchise if it returns to Super League.
Bodene Thompson (Leeds) and Gareth O’Brien (Castleford) are also willing to return, according to McDermott.
“The majority of the squad are staying strong,” he told The Canadian Press. “I’ve talked to most of them the last few weeks. Clearly they’re all concerned, clearly the whole squad is massively financially strained at the moment.
“But we’ve got the main part of the squad that are already here, that have already been recruited, who have pledged to stay and want to see through next year … I’ve got some recruits that we’re bringing in for next year and I’ve had a word with those guys and they’re willing to see what September brings.
“Clearly we need an answer in the next few weeks. Because if we don’t get one soon then everybody’s going to have to go sort themselves out for next year These things can take time.
“I know there’s a sentiment out there from people or an understanding that all the players are leaving. And that’s not true. The main bulk of the squad will stay together.”
Wolfpack chairman and CEO Bob Hunter has said he hopes the team’s future can be resolved by the end of the month. Super League and the Rugby Football League will decide that.
McDermott says the team has to show some humility in the meantime, given it is responsible for what happened to it. But he remains committed to the viability of the North American franchise.
The Wolfpack opened the vault to sign Williams last November, believing the rugby union and league star would bring eyeballs around the globe to the club. It appears the 35-year-old is doing just that with the Roosters and the National Rugby League.
NRL CEO Andrew Abdo said Williams, who played on the weekend for the Roosters, comes with an “X factor.”
“And you can put a dollar-value on it,” Abdo told nrl.com. “He’s had 17,000 mentions in the media in the lead-up to the game this week.
“We quantified that at somewhere in the region of $28.6 million in terms of media value across print, digital, radio and television.”
McDermott said LiVolsi, with his background with the club, understands the potential of the transatlantic franchise.