SBD/November 18, 2011/Franchises

Gretzky Sought After By Groups Eyeing Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment

Gretzky has been on record saying he was unsure if and when he would return to NHL
Rhode Island-based Providence Equity Partners has "reached out to Wayne Gretzky to be part of their group," which is "interested in purchasing a majority stake" in Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, according to SPORTSNET.ca. Sources said that Gretzky “has been approached by multiple groups interested in purchasing the majority stakeholder of MLSE.” Gretzky “would not give any details on potential roles or which specific groups have targeted him.” He has also “been on the record as saying he was still unsure if and when he would return to the NHL.” Gretzky’s agent, Darren Blake, said, “Wayne is often approached about becoming involved in various hockey opportunities. At this point in time there is nothing happening involving the purchase of the Toronto Maple Leafs” (SPORTSNET.ca, 11/17). The GLOBE & MAIL’s Morrow & Shoalts report several groups interested in purchasing a controlling stake in MLSE approached Gretzky, but there are "no serious talks under way." A source said that Providence Equity Partners “is considering a bid,” and added that he “did not know of any attempt to solicit Gretzky’s participation.” Prospective owners “would likely be interested in bringing Gretzky on board as a front man rather than an active chief executive officer” (GLOBE & MAIL, 11/18).

RIGHT MAN FOR THE JOB? In Toronto, Damien Cox writes Gretzky being a part of a group bidding for control of the Maple Leafs “just makes sense.” That U.S. investors, “who would almost certainly face criticism from fans, media and Canadian nationalists for scooping up hockey’s most valuable franchise, would want Gretzky as their front man makes even more sense” (TORONTO STAR, 11/18). However, SPORTSNET.ca’s Michael Grange wrote what the Maple Leafs “don’t need, necessarily, is Wayne Gretzky in an unspecified role as the figurehead of a US-based bid for MLSE.” Grange wrote, “If you’re an anonymous pile of U.S. money looking to squeeze a return out of a sacred local trust such as the Toronto Maple Leafs, perhaps one way to soften the inevitable local blowback is to get in bed with one guy most Leafs fans -- most hockey fans -- can agree on.” So Gretzky “isn’t the wrong guy.” But, "is he the right guy?” What Gretzky can bring “besides goodwill is an open question” (SPORTSNET.ca, 11/17). In Toronto, Steve Buffery writes Gretzky “was one of the all-time greats, but he hasn’t proven that he is able to translate his on-ice magic into off-ice magic.” Perhaps Maple Leafs fans “shouldn’t get too excited” (TORONTO SUN, 11/18).

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Franchises, Toronto Maple Leafs

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