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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December 14, 2011 1:41 am

Just wondering what you guys thought of Tim and Sid?

Personally – like it. Like it a lot. The podcast focused a bit much on soccer and NFL for my tastes, but it sounds like this show is doing more of a ‘Leafs/Jays/Raptors/Everything else’ thing….which I prefer, personally..

I don’t think it will be everyone’s cup of tea, but it feels like a morning or drive home show in the afternoon.

December 14, 2011 2:33 am

Re:Hickey. Its obvious this guy has no idea the relationship between abuser and victim. I’m not ignorant enough to comment further than that but it sickens me that he seemed to write it so nonchalantly.

December 14, 2011 2:58 am

Great article in the Globe…big bussiness sure dose make for strange bed fellows…

December 14, 2011 6:04 am

Makes total sense… Tannenbaum was extra greedy and Teachers said they would run him over if he didn’t get with the program.

December 14, 2011 8:04 am

Re Hickey: Sadly we as a society tend to unfairly blame the victim far too many times. Its a theme I broach with my high school law classes a lot.

mike (in boston)
mike (in boston)
December 14, 2011 9:24 am

DANIEL Just wondering what you guys thought of Tim and Sid?

i’ve just listened to the first hour from monday and i was glad to see that they are sticking with the style that made their Score show so popular. it was pretty ballsy to spend most of their 1st segment on the UFC. This is going to turn a lot of people off, but it’s potentially a good indicator that they are not going to change too much as a result of joining Rogers.

in my view, the best part of Tim&Sid is that it is different from other radio shows. Given how many generic sports radio shows exist, it’s good that they are trying something else. I hope they succeed, but as i’ve said on these boards before, some people will find their style and content grating. As long as they keep bringing solid, well-informed, and well thought-out opinions i’ll keep listening.

December 14, 2011 9:44 am

Isn’t it ironic that all these years Upper Senior MGMT at Sportsnet (Rogers) and TSN (Bell/CTV) have been stoking the rivalry fires to their underlings and then bam they turn around and make a deal essentially making themselves partners (it’s kind of like the Royals, marrying amongst themselves so they can keep all the wealth in house). I know all the on-air talent say nothing will change now that they all (players and media) draw a paycheck from the same employer, however it wasn’t all that long ago that Mike Wilner was slapped with a 3-day fine for supposedly being too confrontational with Cito Gaston, so I don’t buy the argument that it will be status quo.

Just wondering, now that the “Unholy Alliance” has been created does Bob McCowan loss some leverage in his ongoing renegotiation if TSN is now a partner, does that make it tougher to play one against the other?

mike (in boston)
mike (in boston)
December 14, 2011 12:15 pm

Bizarro Zelkovich had a decent one-liner in his Star column:

“At least my Star colleagues weren’t put in the awkward position of having to interview their bosses, like many of the reporters covering the story on Friday.”


it really has been difficult to find opinions on this deal from people who are not affiliated with one side or the other.

Chef Mike in Burlington
December 14, 2011 3:54 pm

As sports fans, everyone in this city, on this blog and in the media should be horrified by this deal…Think about this, EVERY major sports team in this town as well as both sports voices are now one big incestuous family. Where’s the hard questioning coming from?

This is all about content and controlling coverage. The Leafs play to a full building despite decades of failure, why improve?? The Jays can play to an empty building and still make money because of MLB money, integrated radio rights fees, and integrated TV rights fees, so why improve either?? The Raptors have made the playoffs maybe twice in their career and are looking at maybe .500 this year if they are very lucky, and Toronto FC would kill to even see .500. Again, they are now just content, why improve?? We can expect another decade of sports mediocrity in this city, the 2 big powers squeezing every drop of profit from their new sports monopoly.

If you are a sportscaster in this town, good luck too, unless your name is than Bob M, do you expect either Bell or Rogers to allow real criticism or hard questioning of their joint $1.5Billion baby from their own employees??

This deal will lead to dark days for sports fans in this city, especially if you are interested in your teams improving in the short term. I truly hope I’m wrong…

December 15, 2011 6:35 am

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