Leiweke Touts Big Change In First MLSE Interview, Has Leafs' Parade Route Planned
Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment President & CEO TIM LEIWEKE has "mapped a victory-parade route" for the Maple Leafs, according to Miller & Lam of BLOOMBERG NEWS. Leiweke said on Monday in his first interview since joining MLSE, "I have it planned out and it’s going to be fantastic." He added of coming to the company, "What intrigued me the most is the opportunity to have an organization here that can aspire to be much more successful and a greater brand than it currently is." Leiweke said of the Maple Leafs' Game 7 playoffs defeat after losing a three-goal lead to the Bruins, "I think they need a few ass-kickings, and that’s one that will stay with them for a long time. I think it will pay huge dividends in the long term no matter how painful it was." He said of MLSE execs, "Our owners know we’ve got to be patient and stop knee-jerking like we have in the past." In return he has "pledged to double the value of Maple Leaf Sports in the next five to seven years." Leiweke: "Winning does a lot of that, 30 percent minimum comes just from winning." He said that MLSE can "drive fresh profit" from being "more creative with live entertainment and broadcasting." He added that MLSE is "open to acquiring non-hockey-related sports franchises in Canada." Leiweke said of the Raptors, "We need to be a lot better than we are right now, because right now we’re not very good. We have 35 million people that are our audience. We own Canada, it is our home, our territory and our region and we have to act like it. I’m not even sure we deserve Toronto" (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 7/16).
TRIMMING THE FAT: In Toronto, Cathal Kelly notes Leiweke has been living in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Toronto "since his arrival in May." His wife, BERNADETTE, has remained in L.A., "helping plan daughter FRANCESCA’s wedding in mid-August." After the wedding, the whole family "will move north." Leiweke has "lost 40 pounds since January." Leiweke is "impressive in front of a group," and one-on-one he is "Clintonian." The "key to this charisma is the apparent guilelessness of his enthusiasm, the easy confidence." Leiweke said, "I'm tired of talking to fans about '62, '63, '64 and '67. I get that it's important. I honour our history, but it ain't what we're selling any more." He has "grown bullish on the Leafs" and GM DAVE NONIS, who is "renegotiating his own deal." Leiweke: "Nonis and I are absolutely, 100 per cent on the same page. That really pleased me a lot, because it was something I wasn't sure about when I came in." Leiweke said of the Raptors, "Basketball was exactly the opposite (to the Leafs). We needed to change the view, the culture and the leadership. ... Energy, enthusiasm and work ethic are what we need to get the Raptors out of the hole they're in. I came here, and I didn't think we had it" (TORONTO STAR, 7/17). Leiweke said, "I didn't get along with the GM (BRYAN COLANGELO) ... so we brought in somebody who sees the world the same way I do" (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 7/16).
CHANGE WILL DO YOU GOOD? In Toronto, Joe Warmington wrote it "appears change is coming" to the Maple Leafs. The "long-suffering Leafs fans certainly won't mind at all if it means there is a Stanley Cup attached to it." Is it "sacrilegious?" It is "certainly a new way of thinking." But Leaf fans' reaction to Leiweke's comments "was mixed" (TORONTO SUN, 7/16). Also in Toronto, Steve Buffery writes Leiweke "continues to talk a big game." He is "brash and confident," and there is "nothing wrong with aiming high." But his "final statement -- the part about getting rid of pics of former Leafs greats and not living in the past -- sounds like the words of a guy who cares little for the sporting tradition of this city." Buffery: "Have some respect for the market, for tradition" (TORONTO SUN, 7/17).