Early life and career
On June 14, 1991, he formed a public-private partnership of 13 investors to buy the team and prevent a threatened move to Arizona. He used C$2 million from his own funds to make this purchase. He was the largest shareholder, with 7% of the shares, and became managing general partner.
However, the team's other partners considered their investments to be the equivalent of charitable donations. They let it be known to Brochu that they would not commit any more money beyond their initial investment. As a result, even though Montreal was the fifth-largest market in baseball, Brochu was forced to run the Expos on a shoestring budget. Despite this, the Expos managed to assemble a core of players that included Moises Alou, Marquis Grissom, Larry Walker and John Wetteland. In 1994, those players, led by manager Felipe Alou, had the best record in the majors when the strike cut the season short. They were poised to run away with the National League East, with most projections having them winning as many as 105 games.
In the 1994-95 offseason, Brochu ordered general manager Kevin Malone to cut ties with several of the stars of that season. In a series of transactions that took place between April 5–8, Wetteland was traded to the New York Yankees, Ken Hill to the St. Louis Cardinals, and Grissom to the Atlanta Braves. Walker was a free agent, and the Expos allowed him to go to the Colorado Rockies without getting anything in return. The fans and press were savage in their condemnation of the fire sale. Years later, Brochu told writer Jonah Keri that he didn't want to unload Wettland, Hill, Grissom and Walker, but had no choice due to a dangerous depletion of capital. Had the other partners been willing to put the necessary money in, he said, he would have kept the players.
His plan to save the team from bankruptcy was to build a new Baseball park in downtown Montreal, which would be named Labatt Park. He asked for subsidies from the Canadian and Quebec governments of the time, but when this attempt failed, he resigned in 1998 and sold his shares to New York art dealer Jeffrey Loria.
In 2001, he published the book My Turn at Bat: The Sad Saga of the Expos, which blamed Quebec ex-premier Lucien Bouchard for the sale of the baseball team. Bouchard had told him that he wasn't willing to authorize public funding for a new park when he was being forced to close hospitals.
Awards and honors
- Canada's Baseball Man of the Year, 1990
- In 1996, he received the Order of Canada along with Angèle Dubeau, Gordon A. Smith and Trevor Payne.
- Brochu, Renaud (2001). "Descendance de Pierre le Matapédien". Les Brochu (in French). 2. Quebec City: Editions Le Brochu. pp. 363–365. ISBN 2-9801997-2-9.
- Keri, Jonah (2014). Up, Up and Away. Toronto: Random House Canada. ISBN 9780307361356.
- Ferguson, Bob. "Who's Who in Canadian Sport". 4. Markham, ON and Allston, MA: Fitzhenry and Whiteside Ltd.: 52. ISBN 1-55041-855-6.
- "Order of Canada: Claude R. Brochu, C.M., M.B.A.". Retrieved 2006-08-22.