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Tim Leiweke denies report he'll leave MLSE, which owns Raptors

By James Herbert | NBA writer

Tim Leiweke says he isn't going anywhere.  (USATSI)
Tim Leiweke says he isn't going anywhere. (USATSI)

Offseason: Free Agency | Latest from Ken Berger | Rumors

Tim Leiweke, the president and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment -- the corporation that counts the Toronto Raptors as one of its properties -- is stepping down "soon," according to CBC's Elliotte Friedman, but he denied this to the Globe and Mail's Cathal Kelly.

Leiweke joined MLSE in June 2013. He was formerly the president and CEO of AEG, which owned part of the Lakers, all of the NHL's Kings and tried to bring an NFL team to Los Angeles.

MLSE owns the NHL's Maple Leafs and MLS' Toronto FC, but Leiweke was vocal from the start about how much he cared about basketball and wanted the Raptors to turn things around. He's been the public face of MLSE and made bold claims about winning championships in Toronto, so the initial report was pretty surprising.

Despite the denial, there are already rumors that he will return to LA with a different team:

Speaking to the Globe and Mail, Leiweke committed only to this coming year, but it looks like he's not staying for the long haul:

“I've had people come at me. I've said ‘No' in every instance. I am completely focused on this organization.”

It's an open secret within the organization that Shanahan is being groomed to take over Leiweke's spot once he decides to leave. That's why this denial rings true. It's very difficult to believe the 45-year-old Shanahan would want that job only a few weeks into his first senior management position.

Leiweke reportedly is dealing with "tension" within the MLSE board of directors, which makes sense considering it includes Bell and Rogers, two competitors in the Canadian telecommunications industry. He has also been frustrated with the government getting in the way of some of his plans.

At a press conference before last season started, Leiweke spoke about the importance of the 2016 NBA All-Star weekend in Toronto. Now you have to wonder whether he'll be there to see it.

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