On The Sale Of MLSE & More


The deal between Bell and Rogers to buy out the Ontario Teachers Pension Fund from MLSE is truly quite amazing. As I wrote just before the deal went down, it’s the stuff that case studies will eventually be made of. For those of you reading in the USA and abroad, it’s quite difficult to think of a comparison that would equate to just what strange bedfellows these two companies are. Not a great example but it would be like McDonalds and Burger King buying the most profitable meat producer in the USA (assuming they both both bought from the supplier and we know neither really serves meat).

Over time we will hear the fallout of the deal, as new things get announced. In the interim we are left with the coverage of the deal, and I have to say that all in all I found the weekend coverage to be totally lacking. I love doing those really long summary of a big story posts, but I found all of the coverage to be so predictably vanilla I couldn’t write it. The articles suggesting that the sale meant winning would be even more elusive were just predictable.

Here is what I found fascinating. In a city like Toronto, with 4, count em 4 daily newspaper, countless other media outlets no one, literally no one had this deal as happening. This sucker was pronounced dead weeks ago. Truth is, it was only, “mostly dead”. How is it possible that given the parties involved not one person had this story? The news didn’t break until late Thursday night (at which point I was told by several TV folk that a press conference was going to happen at 9:30am Friday.

The best article I have seen on the sale came today in the Globe and Mail. This is the stuff that interests me:

“The Ontario Teachers Pension Plan was preparing to shake up the board of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd. and replace long-time chairman Larry Tanenbaum after the apparent failure of takeover talks in late November with two of Canada’s largest communications companies.

The giant pension fund, which owns 80 per cent of MLSE and put the stake up for sale earlier this year, became frustrated that negotiations between potential buyers Rogers Communications Inc. (RCI.B-T36.93-0.40-1.07%) and BCE Inc. (BCE-T40.89-0.31-0.75%) and Mr. Tanenbaum had reached an impasse. So Teachers’ opted to proceed with what one insider called “the other plan.”

This is a really interesting article. I have no clue how true it is, but at least it claims to shed some light as to what was going on and how it went down.

It’s a good thing for Pat Hickey that we as a society seem to forgive the wrongs of our sports writers. If we weren’t writing something as unpopular as he did the other day would leave a really nasty taste on an otherwise exemplary career.

“I agree James should be doing hard time. In fact, I don’t understand why he was granted bail earlier this year after Fleury ended years of silence by detailing the abuse in his best-selling, as-told-to autobiography.

But I find it hypocritical that Fleury can blast the justice system for giving James two months of freedom when he provided his former coach with years.”

Hickey continues:

“Nobody should question Fleury’s decision to remain silent. What should be questioned is Fleury’s continuing role in James’s life. At the time of Kennedy’s revelations, James was the coach of the Calgary Hitmen. He was one of the co-owners of the junior team in the Western Hockey League. One of the other owners was Theoren Fleury. Here was someone who had suffered abuse at the hands of Graham James. Here was someone who knew that James had abused other players. Here was someone who was exposing other children to the same sexual predator.”

This is a really interesting yet completely unpopular article to write wouldn’t you say? Fleury’s case is as sad as it get in sports. James in my mind is the poster boy for capital punishment. That’s just me. Fleury’s reputation in the latter part of his career took quite a beating for his addiction problems. People’s views on him changed dramatically when his book came out and the James allegations were made. Calling him a hypocrite just isn’t a popular thing to do.

Fleury has, not surprisingly, called for Hickey to be fired. While I don’t subscribe to Hickey’s theory, I see what he is saying. In essence by staying silent he put others at risk for the same things that he endured. I don’t think it’s really that simple to say that Fleury is therefore a hypocrite, but I understand the theory. It was interesting to see how other scribes chimed in their support for Fleury and opposition to Hickey’s article. This couldn’t have been an easy column to write, he had to know this was going to cause a stir. The question is will he go the Mitch Albom route or the Jimmy The Greek route.

Anyone catch this article in the National Post? Blue Jays players are buddying up with Maple Leaf players. How interesting. Great idea for charity, would anyone want the t-shirt though? Remember The Shane Corson, Darcy Tucker wearables? May buy some and offer them up as giveaways.


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