SBD/March 15, 2011/Franchises

Rogers Quiet On MLSE Stake, But Observers Believe Company Will Pursue Bid

Rogers Communications is "stickhandling around questions about rumblings that it likely won't bid" for the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan's stake in Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, but industry insiders "believe the telecommunications giant will drive hard for the country's biggest sports company," according to Van Alphen & Rubin of the TORONTO STAR. Rogers "would not confirm or deny a report on Monday that the company has 'very little interest' in buying the majority stake" in MLSE. Rogers VP/Public Affairs Jan Innes said, "Sports is an important part of Rogers and we're always looking to enhance the sports content we offer our customers." Van Alphen & Rubin note two other potential bidders, Telus and CTV, "would also not comment on any interest in bidding for the MLSE stake." But sources said that Rogers, Telus and BCE, which includes Bell Canada and CTV, will "take serious looks at the Teachers' stake in MLSE." A CTV source: "Everyone is looking" (TORONTO STAR, 3/15). The GLOBE & MAIL's David Shoalts reports Woodbridge Company Ltd., the investment arm of Thomson Reuters Chair David Thomson's family, yesterday ruled itself "out of an interest in MLSE." Meanwhile, MLSE Chair Larry Tanenbaum "remained silent" on his plans. Tanenbaum "has the right of first refusal" on the OTPP's 66% stake in MLSE (GLOBE & MAIL, 3/15). Sources close to the OTPP said that the pension plan "has received numerous expressions of interest recently." The OTPP paid C$180M in '94 to "buy into what became MLSE." Sources said that the pension plan is "looking to sell its stake" for C$1.5B (GLOBE & MAIL, 3/15).

TEACHERS AN EASY TARGET
: The GLOBE & MAIL's Michael Grange noted the "average sports fan can identify by name or face Larry Tanenbaum, the only private investor in MLSE," but he is "just a minority partner" with a 20.6% stake. The "presence of Teachers has always provided those looking for reasons for MLSE’s unblemished championship record and long-standing playoff allergy an easy target: As long as the money rolled in and they got the good seats, the Teachers folks didn’t really seem to take that much of an active role in how things were done on the ice or the floor or the field" (GLOBESPORTS.com, 3/14).
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