Holy smokes, get a load of this! This one's a game-changer, and what does it mean for my beloved Argos???
Rogers in talks to buy Leafs in blockbuster deal[url=http://www.thestar.com/sports/hockey/article/899562--rogers-in-talks-to-buy-leafs-in-blockbuster-deal?bn=1]http://www.thestar.com/sports/hockey/ar ... -deal?bn=1[/url]
Robert Cribb and Tony VanAlphen
[i]In what would be the biggest transaction in Canadian sport history, Rogers is in talks to buy the Toronto Maple Leafs in a deal worth more than $1 billion, sources said Tuesday.
The sale would include the Raptors, Toronto FC soccer club and the Marlies, the Maple Leafs’ minor league hockey team.
Buying a majority stake in Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment from the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan would transform Rogers, which already owns the Toronto Blue Jays, into one of the most powerful sports enterprises in North America.
“I know it’s real,? said one top sports industry executive, who requested anonymity. “I’ve heard it from Rogers at a high executive level and from MLSE at a (the highest) level.?
Sources close to the talks say the asking price for the 66 per cent stake owned by the Ontario Teacher’s Pension Plan, which has about $95 billion in assets, is in the neighbourhood of $1.3 billion.
“This would be unprecedented in a market the size of Toronto,? said Richard Powers, sports marketing professor at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management. “They would have a stranglehold on basically the entire professional sports market in southern Ontario and control almost every single stream of sports-producing revenue in the city.?
A deal with telecommunications giant Rogers would include all of MLSE’s sports properties, including Leafs and Raptors TV stations, but not the company’s real estate holdings, sources told The Star. MLSE recently completed construction on its newly minted Maple Leaf Square condo development next to the Air Canada Centre.
Spokespersons with both Rogers and the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan declined comment.
“It’s our policy to neither confirm or deny,? said Deborah Allan, director of communications and media relations for the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan.
Richard Peddie, MLSE’s chief executive officer, referred all questions to Teachers’ representatives.
“It’s a shareholder matter,? he said. “I have not been involved in any discussions and I have no knowledge of it.?
It is not known whether Rogers is the only bidder or if the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan intends to talk to other parties.
At some point, Larry Tanenbaum will be involved. Kilmer Sports, which the construction magnate owns, holds 20.5 per cent of MLSE, and has a right of first refusal if another shareholder sells. TD Capital holds the remaining 13.5 per cent.
“Either Larry has to pass or Larry goes in bed with Rogers. When Ted (Rogers) was alive, there was always that discussion with Larry and Ted,? said one source.
For Rogers, the programming enticements of a deal are irresistible.
Rogers, which already has epublishing, cable, radio and wireless interests and owns the Blue Jays baseball club, could merge Leafs and Raptors TV, add the Toronto FC games and effectively start the most powerful regional sports network in the country. It would be among the biggest in North America.
“It’s a home run,? said one source. “Content is king. The only way you can draw new subscribers is through compelling, unique and exclusive programming.?
Aubrey Kent, the Torontonian director of the Sports Industry Research Centre and Temple University in Philadelphia, said a Rogers deal would mean “they’d own a huge city.
“Everything but the Argos. It would be quite a monopoly all centralized in a top five market in North America.?
While more than billion dollars isn’t cheap, it could prove well worth it, he said.
“With the landscape as it is, they really need those properties to fulfill their programming need. It’s online content, apps, mobile broadband and TV. Taking over the most valuable property in the NHL and one of the top sports properties in North America is an investment in your core business.?
It could also be good news for sports fans, he said.
“There are a lot of people who have a problem with the Teachers’ Pension Plan being so bottom-line oriented. Rogers might be the same but winners draw more eyeballs than losers do. So there’d be more impetus for Rogers to invest in a winning team.?
Rogers might also be attempting a pre-emptive move, say analysts.
As it stands, MLSE is a threat to start its own powerful regional TV network.
“(Rogers) might be saying, ‘(MLSE) could easily create a regional sports network and kick our ass,? the source said.
That model already exists in the U.S. where the New York-based MSG (Madison Square Garden) Network broadcasts New York Ranger and New York Knick games as well as the WNBA’s New York Liberty and Major League Soccer’s New York Red Bulls.
Adding MLSE teams to the Blue Jays’ nest would also be a game changer for Rogers’ Sportsnet.
A perennial second place finisher to TSN, Sportsnet could become the exclusive spot on the dial to see the country’s most watched hockey team.
“They’re going to try to take the heart out of TSN,? said the source. “They may just say, ‘No more Leaf games on TSN. We’re going to take the whole thing.?
Andrew Zimbalist, a leading sports economist, agrees TSN would be a target.
“It’s a very rich valuation for the Maple Leafs, as iconic as they are as a sports brand, which makes one look for monopoly synergies for Rogers and the obvious one is that they could bury TSN . . . It would be an enormous concentration of power.?
In recent years Rogers has aggressively overpaid for the rights to broadcast games, pay-per-view and digital content for Canadian NHL teams, say sources.
“It’s huge for Sportsnet, huge for wireless and huge for cable,? said the source. “If you go across those platforms and take a pocket of money out of each, there’s a lot to be made there.?
Powers, of the Rotman School of Management, raised a caution repeated by other industry watchers: “You have to wonder if you want that much concentration in one organization. This is a whole other level.?
Teachers’ increased its stake in MLSE last year buying out the 7.7 per cent interest of CTVglobemedia Inc. for undisclosed terms.
There have been rumblings in recent years that the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan, one of the original MLSE investors, wanted to unload its stake despite its continuing strong profitability.
But there’s no upward profit movement for the Leafs any longer, the source said, at least as long as the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan owns the club.
“They’ve capped out on the number of seats and ticket prices.?[/i]