Blog Entry

Rogers, Bell join to buy majority shares of MLSE

Posted on: December 9, 2011 9:43 am
Edited on: December 9, 2011 10:12 am
 

By Brian Stubits

Remember when the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan wasn't going to sell Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment? You know, like two weeks ago?

How quickly things change.

On Friday morning, MLSE (owners of the Maple Leafs, the AHL's Marlies, NBA's Raptors and MLS' Toronto FC) held a news conference to announce the purchase of the company by a joint group of two Canadian media conglomerates, Bell Media and Rogers Communications.

The price of the purchase for the OTPP's 79.5 percent ownership stake is 1.32 Billion -- that's with a B. As part of the purchase, the only minority owner, Larry Tanenbaum, sees his stake rise from 20.5 percent to 25 percent. He had the right of first refusal on a new owner. He will remain the company's CEO.

It's also of note that Rogers already owns baseball's Blue Jays, so with them coming aboard, Rogers now has a hand in all of Toronto's big professional sports teams. Bell, meanwhile, currently owns an 18 percent minority stake in the Montreal Canadiens and announced they aren't looking to sell that share. Let the conspiracy theories begin.

This brings up some really interesting dynamics between two competing companies owning one team. Rogers, which owns Sportsnet, and Bell, owner of TSN. It's certainly a unique agreement to bring together people trying to beat each other out.

"We're all about winning, we're all about championships," Nadir Mohamed of Rogers said when explaining how the two competitors will work together.

That divide was already on display -- somewhat jokingly, mind you -- when Mohamed said it was his goal for Rogers to be the No. 1 company in Canadian media.

So when the Leafs make a move, which network gets the news first? Do they make joint announcements?

There's a lot of fun to have out of this purchase, but we'd be remiss if we didn't point out the delicious irony that Leafs GM Brian Burke and Leafs coach Ron Wilson now work for two media companies just a short while after they were in a spat with local media (when aren't they?), with Burke saying people who work in the media or liars.

The comedy continued in the press conference when they continued to refer to the Raptors as an iconic franchise. We kid, Eye On Basketball, but only because we care.

OTPP has held the primary ownership stake in MLSE since 2004, but has held some stake in the company since 1994.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

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