SBD/October 25, 2013/Franchises

Tim Leiweke Q&A Addresses Plans To Turn Around Struggling MLSE Franchises

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Leiweke said MLSE franchises have been afraid of winning
MLSE President & CEO Tim Leiweke "may have one of the hardest jobs in corporate Canada" as he tries to turn the company's "sad-sack franchises into legitimate contenders," according to a Q&A by Grant Robertson of the GLOBE & MAIL. MLSE, though "rolling in profit ... has failed to win where it matters: on the ice, on the pitch and on the court." Leiweke "doesn't lack self-confidence." He said that he "regrets being so bold" with some of his decisions since taking over the job. But he "understands just how big this job is: a complete rebuild of a long-neglected corporate structure." The future of some of MLSE’s key assets "may depend on it." Below are excerpts from the Q&A.

Q: What sort of window do you give yourself [to start winning]?
Leiweke: We've been afraid of winning, and it has destroyed us. Great organizations don’t back down from the challenge. I learned that with the Lakers. The Lakers are not afraid to admit that they are expected to win. We need to have that kind of culture here.

Q: The Raptors have the knock of being the team nobody wants to play for. How do you turn that around?
Leiweke: People who say players won’t come here because they don’t like the cold weather or they don’t want to play in Canada or we don’t have ESPN -- those are excuses. We’re not using those any more. ... This is one of the top three or four cities in all of North America, with one of the best, if not the best, economy in North America. We will have no trouble convincing people to come here -- if we win.

Q: Have you thought about rebranding the Raptors specifically?
Leiweke: We are going to submit to the league, in the near future, an application to change our logo, our look, our colour scheme -- everything but the name.

Q: Why everything but the name?
Leiweke: Honestly, I’d change the name. But there are others here who felt strongly that we shouldn't change the name, and so I’m going with them on this one.

Q: You use the word fear a lot. What do you mean when you say fear?
Leiweke: There is a fear of success here, which is amazing. ... We have to say, "Look, occasionally we’re going to try things and they’re not going to work. That’s okay." ... We cannot accept where we are at with TFC. I know how we’re going to fix it. That’s not cockiness. It’s confidence. Because I’ve been through this before (GLOBE & MAIL, 10/25).
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