Rogers, BCE on verge of deal for MLSE

Rogers Communications Inc.and BCE Inc. are on the verge of a deal to purchase a majority stake in Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment for more than $1.3-billion. MLSE said in a statement Friday that it was poised to make a major announcement later in the morning, though it gave no details. Sources said the deal would be announced within a matter of days. Sources say the telecommunications giants have reached a draft agreement with the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan to acquire about 80 per cent of MLSE, which owns the Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Raptors and a host of other assets.

The deal has not been finalized and still may fall apart, but the companies were in talks late Thursday night, and sources close to the situation said most of the key details had been worked out.

In particular, Rogers and BCE have won the support of minority owner Larry Tanenbaum, who owns 20 per cent of MLSE and has right of first refusal on any offer. His support clears a major hurdle for any deal.

If finalized, the sale would be one of the richest sales of sports assets in North America. In addition to the Leafs and Raptors, MLSE also owns the Toronto FC soccer club, as well as broadcast properties such as Leafs TV and Raptors TV.

The deal gives MLSE an equity value of roughly $1.66-billion, not including debt. Of that, Rogers and BCE are said to be paying about $1.33-billion for roughly an 80-per-cent stake.

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