Toronto, Canada is one of North America’s worst locations when it comes to the performances of its professional sports franchises. The NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs haven’t won a Stanley Cup since 1967 and haven’t even made it to a final series since then. The NBA’s Raptors have won a total of one playoff series in their history and the Blue Jays of MLB haven’t made the post season since 1993. Still all of these clubs are more successful than soccer team Toronto F.C of MLS. They haven’t made the playoffs since they joined the league.
It can easily be said all of these teams are pretty bad, but there’s also another common thread now since the Maple Leafs, Raptors, Toronto F.C, and Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League (AHL) were all recently sold. Canada’s top two telecom companies, Bell and Rogers, joined forces and bought 75 per cent ownership for a total of $1.32 billion from previous owners MLSE (Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment). Rogers already owned the Blue Jays and now the telecom giants have a monopoly on Toronto sports teams as well as the telecommunications market.
MLSE was funded by the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan and they confirmed sales of the sports franchises as well as the Air Canada Centre, where the Leafs and Raptors call home. Rogers already owns the Rogers Centre, home of the Blue Jays and Bell has an 18 per cent stake in the NHL’s Montreal Canadiens, who play out of the Bell Centre. The other 25 per cent of the former MLSE stocks are owned by Larry Tanenbaum, who had first refusal on the shares that were sold.
The sale still has to be approved by the various leagues, such as the NHL, NBA, and MLS and the Canadian government’s Competition Bureau also has to approve it to make sure the sale doesn’t result in a substantial prevention or lessening of competition. Bell also owns TSN, which is one of Canada’s biggest sports networks while Rogers owns the Sportsnet channels which is it fiercest rival. The two companies now have to sort out some type of deal to see which network shows which games. The 66 Raptors contests this season will all be shown on one network or the other.
However, when it comes to the Maple Leafs, which is the NHL’s most valuable franchise, the broadcast deal might not be so easy to split up since both networks view the team as their golden egg. Bell and Rogers also own competing radio stations, but all of the current contracts involving the teams have to be honoured until they expire.
The announcement of the sale had been rumoured for a few weeks, but most fans and journalists wondered aloud how two of the nation’s top rival companies to come to an agreement. Both Rogers and Bell reportedly paid $533 million each while Tanenbaum’s previous stake of about 21 per cent was raised to 25 per cent in a separate deal. The sale will allow the new owners to broadcast its franchises’ games on a variety of media devices, such as mobile phones and Xboxes.
The sale doesn’t mean the teams will necessarily improve and as one journalist put it, “It just means I can now watch their lousy teams on more electronic devices.”