Taite Kleine and Colby Gaston (the now "former" owners of the Mafia) wanted to try their hands on the business side of things in the JAL two seasons ago when they expanded the Northwest Mafia franchise into the league. Ultimately they should be applauded for their efforts and for helping grow the league, but the reality is that franchise management just isn't for everyone. In their 2 seasons with the franchise the Mafia just couldn't get off the ground, missing the playoffs both seasons and most recently plummeting to 0-6 in JAL 15.
Yesterday Kleine and Gaston decided to cut their losses as owners and sold the franchise for $40 to an outside owner from Oklahoma, Austin Ryan. Ryan has connections to the league via JAL Commissioner Cale Johnson and Express owner Garrett Blain, whom he became friends with in college at the University of Kansas. Ryan now currently works for the Oklahoma City Thunder in their sales department.
Since the league's inception almost 2 years ago, Ryan has been an avid JAL follower. When informed yesterday about the opportunity to buy and own a franchise he says he couldn't pass it up.
"I feel exceptionally honored to have the opportunity to become a member of the JAL. It has always been a dream of mine to one day own a sports franchise and today that is a reality," he said.
Besides Ryan, the former Mafia owners were also drawing interest from a couple of other potential buyers, one of which was Ryley Larson who was a rookie on the Rapids last season. After hearing about the opening, Larson asked Rapids management for permission to be cut from the roster in order to pursue the opportunity - which the Rapids agreed to do if Larson did in fact get offered the team over Ryan.
In the end, Ryan and Larson became aware of each other during the negotiations. As it turns out, the two parties got into contact with one another and agreed to go in on it together, Ryan as the owner and Larson as the General Manager. Late last night the deal was finalized with Kleine and Gaston.
"I'm hoping for the best of luck to them," said Kleine. He also added that although he is done in management, he is by no means done with his playing career and hopes to make it on a roster next season in JAL 16. Kleine was on a 1-season contract as a player with the Mafia in JAL 15, which obviously is set to expire on January 13th when free agency begins.
Kleine lastly added that he hopes Ryan will keep the name "Northwest Mafia," but Ryan says there is no chance, and that a name/colors/logo change is eminent, and will likely be made official very soon.
"I know the Mafia has had a rough go so far, but with the help of my newly appointed General Manager Ryley Larson and some forthcoming re-branding, we aim to turn the franchise around," says Ryan.
As General Mamanger, Larson plans to tap into his athlete connections up in the Lacey/Olympia area where he is from. Still on the roster currently (without contracts expiring on the 13th) are Gaston and Cody Sicklovan. No word has been made yet from the new franchise leaders on whether or not they plan to keep either one of them on the roster or cut them, or if they plan to pursue re-signing Kleine in free agency.