UPDATE: MLSE chairman Larry Tanenbaum has confirmed the sale in a statement: "I am delighted to announce that I have agreed to increase my ownership stake in MLSE to 25 per cent on the closing of the purchase by Bell and Rogers of Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan's shares in MLSE. The transactions are expected to close in mid 2012 following required regulatory and league approvals.
I want to thank Teachers' for their partnership over the last 15 years. Together, with our dedicated employees, we have built one of the finest sports and entertainment companies in the world.
I am excited to welcome our new partners Bell and Rogers. I am proud this is a Made-in-Canada deal that will bring resources and expertise to help us win on and off the ice, court and pitch. This is a terrific path forward for our teams and our fans. It will ensure MLSE continues to make a positive impact in Toronto and across this great country of ours".
UPDATE: Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs, has said it plans a "major announcement" Friday amid reports that two Canadian telecommunications giants are about to buy a majority stake in the company for more than $1.3 billion. Reports say Bell Inc. and Rogers Communications Inc. are on the verge of a deal with the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan to acquire about 80 per cent of MLSE. While MLSE has not issued a direct response to reports from various media outlets, it said Friday morning that it would be holding a news event at the Air Canada Centre starting at 9:30 a.m. EST.
Two of Canada's media giants are close to a deal to buy Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE), the parent company of the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Toronto Raptors, according to various media reports published late Thursday.
MLSE's majority shareowner, the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan, has been on the hunt for a buyer for the last few months. The deal would be one of the largest sports deals in Canada.
The Financial Post's Theresa Tedesco reports that the deal would see both companies splitting the Teachers' 79.5% share of MLSE.
"Sources say the Rogers family had given their approval to buy the entire controlling stake from Teachers but chief executive Nadir Mohamed convinced them that a joint bid with a major competitor was the more attractive option," reported the National Post.
Both newspapers report that the deal could take place "in a matter of days," with the Sun saying the deal could take place by Friday.
The deal has its share of hurdles including both the NHL and the NBA.
BCE would likely have to sell its minority stake in the Montreal Canadiens. The Globe and Mail reports that the deal will get the approval of MLSE minority owner and board chairman Larry Tannenbaum who has first right of refusal on the sale of MLSE.
"If this is happening, for Larry to be in agreement, Bell and Rogers must have agreed to allow him to continue to run the company," said an anonymous source to the Toronto Sun's Joe Warmington.
Another complication are the competing interests of both BCE and Rogers. The companies own competing sports TV stations TSN and Rogers Sportsnet respectively. The pair of companies also own competing radio stations in Toronto. They will also have to decide how to divide the lucrative TV rights for the Toronto Maple Leafs, the team that Forbes ranked as the most profitable in the NHL.
In recent months, speculation has grown over who would become the new owners of the Toronto Maple Leafs, with everyone from an American private equity firm to an ownership group containing hockey legend Wayne Gretzky being rumoured.
The deal could also create a virtual monopoly in Toronto sports broadcasting with Rogers owning the Toronto Blue Jays.
Another media player that could also be affected by the deal is the CBC. The public broadcaster may now have to face a Rogers-BCE partnership to bid for the rights of NHL hockey games.
With a report from The Canadian Press