Talk Is Cheap

So the proverbial shit hit the fan this week when the Star broke a story that at least until the debacle last night took all the attention off the current state of the Toronto Maple Leafs on ice product.  Rumour was according to the Star that the fine folks at Rogers Communications had made an offer of $1.3b for the Ontario Teachers Pension Fund ownership steak in Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment.

Tongues were a wagging and the fine folks on Bay Street started to talk to the sports media and vise versa and well a story was born.  I love when certain puck heads start talking business.

Well, remember when word broke that Richard Peddie could be on his way out and the inital response was “He’s denying it”?  What else happened this week?  It was announced that Peddie will be be gone by next Christmas.  Let’s be clear on one thing.  If a suitable replacement is found sooner, the transition will be sped up.  Organizations don’t just wait until the last minute.  As one MSM management type said to me this week, no one really has a _ of year deal, it just means that person knows how long he is being paid for.  In other words, Peddie may be getting a check until next Decemeber, but that doesn’t mean someone else won’t be driving the boat beforehand.

Similarly,   when the Ontario Teachers Pension fund said today that no one has made an offer for it’s stake in MLSE well, that may very well be true.  I guess it depends on on what you mean by an offer.  As we all learned from William Jefferson Clinton, there are various ways to interpret words when they are strung together to form sentences.  I am not saying that talks are on going, or ever happened, rather, all I am telling you is don’t necessarily believe what you read or hear.  There is no obligation to be entirely truthful.

There were a couple of interesting things about the story that broke.  First, it was incredibly interesting who broke it, or rather who didn’t.  No knock at all on the Star guys at all.  Robert Cribb is a damn good columnist.  However when it comes to stories like this I am thinking along the lines of Theresa Tedesco and even Bob Mccown.  Even though Mccown works for Rogers, it is the type of story he would be all over (if it were indeed true).

To me, the funniest part is the coverage that the local media gave the story.  No, not the volume, rather the type of attention.  My favorite were the stories asking the Leaf players what they thought.  I mean, come on, do you really care what any player on any MLSE team thinks about the rumored sale?  I mean asking Armstrong what he thinks because his former team had serious economic problems in the past, that’s news???

Bill Watters was perhaps the best on the topic.  Poor Darren Dreger who had to suffer through Wilbur’s drawl of hatred towards MLSE and Larry Tanenbaum.  I loved when Watters said, repeatedly, I don’t care what you (Dreger)say, or any other reporter in this town, Tanenbaum doesn’t have a right of first refusal.  Then Wilbur went on to say that he knows of at least 5 “bids” for the Teachers stake and finally that Tanenbaum is “scrambling” to raise the money by meeting with banks and that guys like “Larry and Jim (Balsillie) will never own the team”.  I mean if Bill Watters says it it must be true right?

Then there were the endless what would a sale mean to Leafs fans stories.  Would it change the teams fortunes they all asked. I mean come on, say whatever the hell you want about the folks at MLSE, I don’t think anyone can accuse of them of not spending on the team.  I mean what inane comments.

So, what’s my take tons of emails asked.  Here is my thought.  Unfortunately it’s nothing new or that you haven’t read elsewhere.  Stories like this don’t just come out of thin air.  Does it mean a deal is imminent?  No.  I think and I have no way of knowing, that eventually teachers would like to unload their investment.  Despite the fact that this one investment pays dividends most investments are made with an eye to a huge return upon the sale.  As for Rogers, of course they want to buy. If they can own MLSE rights on mobile devices and whatever technology comes down the pipe well there is no real value on that.  Having nothing but Rogers ads around the Toronto arean/stadium has huge upside to them too.  My sense of how this ends is that there are far too many pieces for the average journalist to comprehend.

I will say this.  I don’t think for one second that any dialogue about buying Teachers shares goes on without an eye on the NFL.  I don’t care what anyone says, or who denys what, I am convinced a team is coming here and sooner rather than later.  I am convinced it won’t be the bills either.  If Toronto is the Vatican of hockey, the NFL is the pearly gates of sports ownership.  When franchise value in the area of 1b is mentioned the NFL can’t be far behind.  Prepare yourselves.  It’s coming.

Lastly, for those who like to look west down the 401 to the city of Detroit and Mike Illitch as this favourable owner as opposed to the corporate face of our teams, let me just say this; the grass is always greener.  I lived in Michigan for a long time and in many of those years Illitch wasn’t beloved.  He was loathed.  When he took over the Tigers he was hated.  It’s like everything else; it’s easy being a hero when you win.  Don’t get be wrong, the red wings are the prototype in which others want to emulate in the NHL.  In terms of being the darling multi sport owner he hasn’t always had the squeaky clean facade.

Lots more on this later.



About the Author