Toronto Wolfpack’s prospective new owner Carlo LiVolsi has outlined his vision for the club – after admitting he has found some of its actions this year “disgusting”.
The Canadian businessmen – who owns companies in beauty product distribution that deal with the likes of Boots and Walmart – was a founding investor of the club when it launched in 2016 under major shareholder David Argyle.
LiVolsi says he has not spoken to Argyle for months despite a long-standing friendship with him, as he is one of the people owed money. LiVolsi has also pledged to meet the £500,000 owed to players for three months miss pay roll to date, and negotiate the terms of any other outstanding club debts he says are still emerging.
Under the proposal he will be the sole owner of the Wolfpack with an option to bring a minority “strategic brand partner”, facilitating the part of his business plan that includes a new grooming product that would work along the lines of Red Bull’s association with sporting clubs across the world.
But LiVolsi says the main priority is re-establishing a solid footing financially for the divisive Canadian club, who withdrew from this year’s Super League relaunch less than two weeks before kick-off amid crippling financial issues under Argyle.
LiVolsi said: “Essentially, I feel that the prior ownership did a very good job of putting a good product on the field but was devoid of basic structure that you need to run a business. I think that my success in the last 18 years of how to run a business strategically and making sure that the foundation is solid, is the one key factor that I bring to the table that will help the team.
“The club side, the performance there has spoken for itself and they’ve done a very good job. It’s just not financially monetised and structured the business in a way that was physically responsible, and that’s where I plan to excel and take this to another level.”
Asked specifically what he made of the club’s actions this year, Livolsi responded: “It’s disgusting. Listen, I know David Argyle more than anyone does, I chose months ago not to speak to him anymore because I didn’t like some of the things he did.
“My belief is that you don’t try to promote yourself to be something you’re not for the sake of people liking you from an ego perspective. I think it’s unfair to the players who have worked hard and have rent to pay and they can’t even get paid what they’re owed. I think that’s dishonest and it’s not the way you run a business or live your life.
“David and I have known each other because I’ve invested a lot of money into financial deals he’s been involved in. I think the first thing is this, in any business and any expectation, whether you’re a parent, running a company or sports, you can’t over promise and under deliver.
“The key thing here is making sure you set the expectations low enough that you understand what the realities are. From my perspective, part of the problems are that a lot of money has been spent and wasted in the wrong areas. David wanted to be liked by all and wanted to be known as a magnate, which he never was.
“If you read anything about me I want it to only be positive. I don’t want headlines about me, I’m not even comfortable with them talking about me, I’d rather them talk about my brand and the team and how we plan to grow from that perspective.
“From a personal perspective, I feel for all the players. I can only say that if we’re given the opportunity, things are going to be much different. They will prosper under us, they’re going to make more money and be treated like family versus the outcasts they were treated like before. There’s no excuse for not paying your bills – you don’t go into an agreement then not pay the people that help you.”
LiVolsi says he has two key focuses for taking the club forward. “I think the first thing you do in a business is you look at the profit and loss,” he said. “You look at your balance statement and your finance sheet, and where your synergies lie in your company so you can monetise in a certain way. From a structure perspective, I have very good people internally that can help streamline the business from the financial side.
“The second part is this, I own a brand that I believe will help monetise the league and the team. It’s called Wolf Grooming, we’re going to launch next year in the UK and this brand itself will help catapult it into a marketing machine.
“From my perspective, grooming brands are a sector of the marketplace that’s worth a lot of money, a lot more than a Super League team would go for. I believe that by taking the brand itself, building a story around the guys, the players and injecting that into the core of what Super League is today, will help it succeed.”
LiVolsi insists that his takeover is completely dependent both on the club being readmitted to Super League, rather than the Championship or League One, and being granted equal TV distribution money moving forwards. He would like to retain marquee signing Sonny Bill Williams for 2021, but says his sole priority is getting the club on a solid financial footing first, and leaving the rugby side of the club to coach Brian McDermott.
Super League and the RFL are expected to give LiVolsi a timeline for their decision on the Wolfpack’s future by the end of the week, and he has been encouraged by initial talks with them and, among others, Leeds chief executive Gary Hetherington.
LiVolsi added: “He’s a wonderful man and I have had a separate conversation about a few things this morning. I think they’ve all been nice and respectful about the situation we’re in.
“I understand the position they’re in. Imagine you own a house you’re renting out and your tenant defaults on payment, you’re a little concerned letting them back in. I understand the trepidation but you have to look at the two, and separate the two.
“Do they feel the team was a positive influence for Super League? Yes. Then you look at the other side. The issues are all easily fixed because I’m solid financially, I’m rooted in the community, I donate to charities and I’m pretty good at making people forget the past. I think Ralph (Rimmer) recognises that, I’ve had some good conversations with him and I hope to win over the rest of them and all I ask is that I’m given an opportunity to be available to do so.
“We have a five-year plan we’ve put forward. In five years time we want to win the whole thing. I’m very competitive, I have three kids, my two boys play sports. I’m a competitive person, I hate losing more than anything.
“The first thing I’ll do is make sure we’re on a sound financial footing. We’ll build the business from the ground up and the rest of the owners better watch because we’ll be one of the best teams for years to come.
“We’ll go after the top players, we’ll be aggressive and we’ll listen to the people who know the sport too, that’s not my job. My job is to essentially make sure we have the money and build our business through the Wolf Grooming brand I’ve pitched to the Super League. Do I think we’ll be successful in five years? Absolutely.”