Canadian telecommunications giants Bell Media and Rogers Communications are uniting to buy a 75-percent share of the Toronto Maple Leafs and other properties in a mega deal that was announced Friday. The deal is reportedly worth $1.32 billion.
Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment owns the Leafs, the AHL's Marlies, NBA's Raptors, Major League Soccer's Toronto FC, as well as broadcaster properties such as Leafs TV and Raptors TV.
Rogers Communications and Bell Canada Enterprises Inc., which owns Bell, are purchasing the majority stake in MLSE from the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan. OTPP will remain the majority owner until this summer, when Rogers and Bell are expected to each assume 37.5-percent of the company's stake.
MLSE minority owner Larry Tanenbaum agreed to the deal and to raising his stake in the club five percent to 25 percent. He will remain the chairman of MLSE.
The deal still requires the approval of the NHL, the NBA and Canada's broadcast regulator before it becomes final. When it is finalized, it will become one of the richest sales of sports assets in North America.
"This is a wonderful way of bringing media and content under the same umbrella," Rogers president Nadir Mohamed said at the news conference on Friday.
Rogers owns Sportsnet while Bell Media owns TSN.
"What this really brings to the fans is access to the four professional teams in a way quite frankly none of us thought possible 36 months ago," George Cope, president and CEO of Bell Canada, said at a news conference. "The Canadian telecom industry, wireless industry, leads the world in technology. Making that available to everyone in every market we think will be one of the huge benefits to the fans and quite frankly to the NHL, and the other sports organizations."
Tanenbaum will also remain as governor for the Leafs, Raptors and Toronto FC.
"I am proud this is a made-in-Canada deal that will bring resources and expertise to help us win on and off the ice, court and pitch," Tanenbaum said. "This is a terrific path forward for our teams and our fans. It will ensure MLSE continues to make a positive impact in Toronto and across this great country of ours."
The teachers' pension fund put its stake in MLSE up for auction in March, but shut down the sale process Nov. 25 after it said it didn't receive any suitable offers for the assets. The OTPP said Friday that the media companies restarted the talks this past week, leading to Friday's deal.
The OTPP purchased its stake for $180 million in 1994.
"We will continue to cheer for the teams and look forward to celebrating their success, but after the summer, from the sidelines," Jane Rowe, senior vice-president of Teachers' Private Capital, said at a news conference.