Canada’s largest telecommunication companies announced on Friday they have agreed to buy the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs and the NBA’s Toronto Raptors in a billion-dollar deal as the fierce telecom rivals seek content for their sports channels, digital properties and smartphones.
Rogers Communications and BCE Inc purchased a majority stake in Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE) from the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan for about US$1 billion.
Rogers and BCE, major competitors in wireless, Internet and cable, will each own 37.5 percent of Canada’s largest sports conglomerate, while Toronto businessman Larry Tanenbaum upped his minority stake from 20 percent to 25 percent in a total sale worth C$1.32 billion (US$1.3 billion).
The storied Maple Leafs are hockey’s richest club and have long been the most followed hockey team in hockey-mad Canada. In all, the Leafs have won 11 Stanley Cups, but none since 1967. MLSE also owns the Air Canada Centre, the home of the Maple Leafs and Raptors and a major concert venue in Canada’s largest city.
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 chief executive Nadir Mohamed said the Blue Jays are not a part of the deal. He 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. They will share the sports content of MLSE.
“Sports content is king. Let’s face it, nobody wants to watch a game two days later,” Mohamed said.