Report: Leafs, Raptors up for sale

TSN reports:

TORONTO (CP) – Steve Stavro is in talks to sell his control position in Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, owner of the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs and NBA’s Toronto Raptors, the Globe and Mail reported Wednesday.
The 76-year-old former grocery-store owner is negotiating with a group of potential buyers, including the Thomson family, and MLSE’s two other part-owners: the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan Board and construction magnate Larry Tanenbaum, the report said.

If the Thomson family was susccessful in acquiring MLSE, the sports company would probably end up inside Bell Globemedia (BGM), which is majority owned by BCE Inc. Thomson Corp. owns a minority stake in Bell Globemedia. BGM is also the parent company of TSN.

“Steve (Stavro) has decided it’s time to move on and everyone is now working on a graceful transition,” a source close to the talks told the paper.

Several unnamed sources told the paper that a new ownership group would simplify the company’s structure and pave the way for more lucrative television contract. If Stavro follows through, a deal could be reached within three weeks.

Brian Bellmore, Stavro’s lawyer and an MLSE director, said he was unaware of a pending deal. Officials at Teachers and BCE Inc., declined comment. Tanenbaum was unavailable.

Stavro owns 55 per cent of MLG Holdings, the company that holds 51 per cent of MLSE, which also owns the Air Canada Centre. Tanenbaum owns 25 per cent of MLG Holdings and the rest is owned by Toronto-Dominion Bank. Teachers owns 49 per cent of the MLSE unit.

TD is expected to sell its position if control changes hands. Teachers would keep about the same ownership position it now has, sources said.

One key to a deal, they said, is the backing of Tanenbaum, who has been at odds with Stavro in the past. One source said Tanenbaum, who shares the right of first refusal with all other shareholders, is backing the ownership shift.

MLSE is believed to be worth $800 million to $1 billion. The last ownership change occurred in 1996, when Tanenbaum bought his interest for $21 million from Stavro.

Stavro has been winding down his financial ventures in recent years after closing his Knob Hill Farms grocery-store chain in 2000. Since then, he has run into problems selling his remaining assets. There have been suggestions that Stavro owes the Thomson family money, but sources said that is not true.

Stavro acquired control of the hockey team about 10 years ago with the backing of TD Bank and the Ontario teachers’ fund. Since then, a new arena has been built and the basketball team added.

via the Globe and Mail


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