The Toronto Raptors may have made as big a move toward respectability as any team in the league last week… no, not signing Rasual Butler.
The Raptors are about to have new owners. Which is a very good thing.
The Ontario Teachers Pension Plan owns the majority of the Raptors but they are about to sell to Canadian media giants, according to the Toronto Sun.
Sources have told QMI Agency that a deal worth as much as $2 billion is close to being settled with telecommunications behemoths Bell Media and Rogers Communications, who have been rivals in the past for the much desired 79.5% shares of MLSE.
Bell and Rogers represent TSN and Sportsnet, the No. 1 and 2 sports broadcasting powers in Canada, but they will call a truce and split the shares with so many lucrative deals to be spun off their union.
To most people in Toronto, what really matters is that the NHL’s Maple Leafs will also be sold as part of this deal. Also in the mix is the Air Canada Centre and Toronto’s MLS franchise.
The Raptors ownership (which includes a few minority owners as well) always seemed confused and often at cross-purposes, with some odd personal vendettas thrown in for fun. Ideally this change will give Bryan Colangelo a green light to make some serious changes. There are few more passionate (and large) fan bases in the NBA as the Raptors, their fans deserve better.
The ownership of the Toronto Raptors is an interesting mess.
There is a seven-person board that directs Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (which owns the Raptors, the NHL’s Maple Leafs and other sporting entities). The Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan owns Two thirds of that.
But the pension plan has announced it may sell its shares, the Associated Press reports.
The NBA has an ownership transition that has gone slowly not far away in Detroit, while they league took over the team in New Orleans and is looking for an owner — and a financial way — to keep the team in the big easy. Team sales are not necessarily going smoothly right now.
Yet you can imagine demand for this team. Toronto is certainly a big enough market to support a team and the Raptors have a strong and loyal following. It would be interesting to see if a more traditional, single majority owner would change the fortunes of a franchise that has struggled on the court.
Roger Communications of Canada apparently has watched Mike Ilitch in Detroit and thought, “we should do that.”
The company is trying to create a monopoly by owning every major sporting team in Toronto (the way, once the Pistons sale is complete, Ilitch will own every sporting team in Detroit except the Lions, and if you’ve watched a Lions game you understand why we don’t consider them a major league sports team anymore).
Rogers is looking to buy two-thirds ownership in Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment, at a price of about $1.3 billion, according to the Toronto Star (via CBS Facts and Rumors). That would be the ownership stake currently in the hands of the Ontario Teacher’s Pension Plan. Yes, a bunch of teachers currently own the team.
With this move Rogers would own the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs and a bunch of teams that people in Toronto care less about — the Raptors, Toronto FC soccer club and the Marlies, the Maple Leaf’s minor league affiliate. Rogers already owns the Toronto Blue Jays.
You may not know what Rogers is, but if you lived in Canada they would be your phone company. They are a major wireless telephone and home phone/internet company on the order of AT&T here in the states.
What this means is a deep pocketed and very stable ownership group for the Raptors. They have a passionate fan base but not one that has been rewarded with quality teams often, Rogers ownership stability could be a first step to changing that.