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Maple Leafs and Raptors sold to Rogers and BCE

NHL.com @NHL

TORONTO (AP) - Canada's largest telecommunication companies announced Friday they have agreed to buy the NHL's Toronto Maple Leafs and NBA's Toronto Raptors in a deal worth about $1.3 billion.

Rogers Communications and BCE Inc have purchased a majority stake in Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment from the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan in one of the richest sports deal in North American history.

Rogers and BCE, rival telecommunication companies, will each own 37.5 percent while Toronto businessman Larry Tanenbaum upped his minority stake to 25 percent and will remain chairman

MLSE also owns the Air Canada Centre, the home of the Maple Leafs and Raptors and a major concert venue. The Maple Leafs have long been the most followed hockey team in Canada. In all, the Leafs have won 11 Stanley Cups, but none since 1967.

The deal also includes the Toronto FC of Major League Soccer, a minor league hockey team, and the Leafs and Raptors TV stations.

Rogers already owns the Toronto Blue Jays baseball team and their stadium, the Rogers Centre, as well as the Canadian sports channel Sportsnet.

Rogers CEO Nadir Mohamed said he was thrilled to be a part owner of the iconic Maple Leaf brand. BCE and Rogers are the largest wireless, Internet and cable companies in Canada and are fierce competitors.

"Go figure," Mohamed joked. "It is the Leafs, Raptors and Toronto FC and we're in it together."

Mohamed said it will bolster their sports channel and their digital, print, mobile and radio properties. Mohamed said more and more people have wireless devices like smartphones and tablets and they want to watch live sports.

"Sports content is king. Let's face it nobody wants to watch a game two days later," Mohammed said. "Between the two organizations I can't think of anybody that can bring live sports to Canadians wherever they are without missing a second."

George Cope, the president and CEO of BCE, said it delivers on their goal to deliver the best content to what he calls the "new four screen world that we live in."

"We believe, increasingly, that live content is going to be more and more important in the technology world and there is no better live content than the professional sports that we are talking about today," Cope said.

Mohamed noted Rogers and BCE worked together as broadcast partners at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

The pension plan, which represents 300,000 current and retired teachers, has been shopping MLSE since receiving some unsolicited bids earlier this year.

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