Rogers and Bell buy MLSE (and now own every Canadian sports team, stadium and channel ever)

Rogers and Bell buy MLSE (and now own every Canadian sports team, stadium and channel ever)

Less than two weeks after the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan announced it was taking its majority share of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment off the market, the fund has turned around and sold its long-time cash cow for $1.32 billion. (For those following along, OTTP bought it 17 years ago for $180 million.) The buyers should sound horrifyingly familiar to any Toronto sports fan: Rogers and Bell.

The numbers, via BNN:

Rogers Communications and BCE, parent of Bell Canada, will evenly divide a 75 per cent stake in Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE), the companies announced on Friday.

As part of the deal, Larry Tanenbaum and his firm Kilmer Sports Inc., which already owns the remaining 20.5 per cent, will raise their MLSE stake to 25 per cent.

Rogers has been entertaining the buy for years now, but a joint purchase with rival Bell seems counterintuitive. However, the partnership will allow each company to pay less for control while keeping the full property out of their competitors’ hands. Pending regulatory and league approval, the deal will close in mid-2012 with Tanenbaum staying on as MLSE chair.

The Toronto Star’s Damien Cox called the deal (prospective at the time) “like none other in pro sports. It’s outlandish. Utterly sensational.” He, along with the Globe and Mail’s James Christie, expressed concerns about how insane the sports landscape in Toronto could become. For the record, Rogers already owns the Toronto Blue Jays, the Rogers Centre and Sportsnet, while Bell owns the sports networks TSN and French-language RDS, as well as a minority stake in the Montreal Canadiens—to this, the two companies add the Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Marlies, Toronto Raptors, Toronto FC, the Air Canada Centre, Leafs TV, NBA TV Canada and GOL TV Canada.

Even more than before, sports fans will be watching a Rogers team play in a Rogers venue on a Rogers channel and hearing about it the next day on Rogers media. With the twin telecommunication giants as loathed as they are, we predict a serious ratings boost for Toronto Argos coverage on The Score.

Rogers, Bell complete deal of MLSE stake [Sportsnet]
BCE and Rogers team up to buy 75 percent of MLSE [TSN]
Bell and Rogers team up to buy 75 per cent stake in Toronto Maple Leafs owner [Canadian Business]