SBD/May 3, 2012/Franchises

BCE-Rogers Cleared For Acquisition Of MLSE Stake

Canada's Competition Bureau will not challenge BCE Inc. and Rogers Communications Inc.’s “deal for a majority stake in Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment Ltd., but has also sent a strong warning that it is keeping an eye on the sector,” according to Perkins & Nelson of the GLOBE & MAIL. The two companies struck a $1.3B agreement in December for a 75% stake in MLSE, owner of the Maple Leafs, Raptors and MLS Toronto FC, with “the aim of locking up the television rights for hockey, basketball and soccer for their sports channels.” While the Competition Bureau said that it “has no plans to interfere with the deal at this point, it signalled that it is looking into concerns about the amount of concentration and ‘vertical integration’ in the sector.” The organization "can challenge the deal for one year after it closes” (GLOBE & MAIL, 5/3). In Toronto, Yew & Campbell report the deal "is one step closer to becoming official" and will give Rogers and BCE "control over a massive real estate portfolio that includes the Air Canada Centre.” Rogers, which already owns the Blue Jays, and MLSE had “already moved forward with a cross promotional campaign, plastering the Air Canada Centre with billboards advertising Blue Jays gear for sale at Real Sports, MLSE’s flagship apparel store.” But for BCE and Rogers, “more than property and sports teams, the deal is about the rise of laptops, smartphones, and tablets -- and the lucrative business of providing content for those high-tech devices” (TORONTO STAR, 5/3).
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