SBD/Issue 56/Franchises

Rogers Reportedly In Talks To Buy MLSE Sports Properties

 

Rogers Communications is "in talks to buy" the Maple Leafs, Raptors, Toronto FC and AHL Marlies for more than $1B (all figures Canadian) in "what would be the biggest transaction in Canadian sport history," according to sources cited in a front-page piece by Cribb & VanAlphen of the TORONTO STAR. Sources indicated that the asking price for the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan's 66% share of MLSE "is in the neighbourhood of $1.3 billion." The sources noted that a deal would include "all of MLSE’s sports properties, including Leafs and Raptors TV stations, but not the company’s real estate holdings." Cribb & VanAlphen note buying a stake in MLSE "would transform Rogers, which already owns the Toronto Blue Jays, into one of the most powerful sports enterprises in North America." The "programming enticements of a deal are irresistible" to Rogers. The media conglomerate, which "already has epublishing, cable, radio and wireless interests and owns the Blue Jays baseball club, could merge Leafs and Raptors TV, add the Toronto FC games and effectively start the most powerful regional sports network in the country." Analysts contend that Rogers might be "attempting a pre-emptive move," because MLSE at the moment "is a threat to start its own powerful regional TV network" (TORONTO STAR, 12/1). The FINANCIAL POST's Tedesco & Sturgeon cite sources as saying that OTPP is "actively shopping" MLSE, but there is "absolutely no deal" to sell a majority stake to Rogers. Sources added that the OTPP also has been "in talks with BCE Inc., which recently bought CTV," MLSE Chair Larry Tanenbaum, and "at least two potential U.S. buyers" (FINANCIALPOST.com, 12/1).     

MOVING INTO SPORTS: The GLOBE & MAIL's Perkins, Grange, Krashinsky & Marlow note Rogers has been "pushing further into sports deals." It has "already struck content deals with the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames, and recently dropped an undisclosed amount of money to purchase the naming rights to what is now known as the Rogers Arena in Vancouver, which included valuable content deals with the Vancouver Canucks." If Rogers does gain a majority stake in MLSE, the "regulatory implications are huge." Although broadcasting companies are "mandated by the CRTC to share their signals with other networks, the rules on sharing are much less clear for the actual owners and creators of the content." If Rogers owned the Maple Leafs, they "could technically deny their telecom rivals the content -- or demand an enormous premium" (GLOBEANDMAIL.com, 12/1).

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