Rogers and Bell Oppose Billionaire’s Plan to Sell MLSE Stake

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Rogers and Bell are challenging billionaire Larry Tanenbaum’s planned sale of a stake in the parent company of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto Raptors to the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System (OMERS) pension plan. This marks the beginning of what could be a long-fought battle for control of the sports empire.

Back in June, Tanenbaum announced plans to raise $400 million by selling a 20% stake in Kilmer Sports Inc., a family-controlled holding company, to OMERS. Kilmer Sports owns 25% of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE), with Tanenbaum serving as MLSE’s chairman. Rogers and Bell have a jointly owned holding company that hold the remaining 75%.

Rogers and Bell have raised questions about the proposed sale in a joint letter to Tanenbaum, according to sources familiar with the matter, reports The Globe and Mail. The exact concerns of the companies have not been detailed.

MLSE, the owner of Toronto’s major sports teams, is valued at $8 billion. Larry Tanenbaum, who owns a quarter of the organization, plans to sell his $2 billion stake to the OMERS pension plan as part of his estate planning.

Rogers and Bell, who jointly own the majority of MLSE, have raised concerns about this sale. They first invested in MLSE in 2012 for $1.32 billion and have the option to buy Tanenbaum’s shares in 2026. The proposed sale to OMERS values Tanenbaum’s stake higher than expected, complicating the future buyout. Experts predict that they will eventually buy out Tanenbaum and neither will let the other take full control of MLSE.

Both Rogers and Bell use their sports team ownership to promote their cable, internet and wireless services. They have seen their MLSE stakes triple in value over the past 11 years, and both have also done well on other sports investments. The Toronto Blue Jays are owned by Rogers. Bell has a minority stake in the Montreal Canadiens.

MLSE owns the following teams:

  • National Hockey League’s Toronto Maple Leafs
  • National Basketball Association’s Toronto Raptors
  • Major League Soccer’s Toronto FC
  • Canadian Football League’s Toronto Argonauts
  • NBA 2K League’s Raptors Uprising
  • Toronto Marlies (American Hockey League)
  • Raptors 905 (NBA G League)
  • Toronto FC II (MLS NEXT Pro League)

MLSE also owns and/or operates the following venues:

  • Scotiabank Arena
  • BMO Field
  • Coca-Cola Coliseum
  • Ford Performance Centre
  • BMO Training Ground
  • OVO Athletic Centre

The fight for MLSE ownership comes as sports team values rise due to increased broadcast and gambling revenues. Broadcast fees are up as traditional television networks compete with streaming services such as Amazon for rights to games that grab a stable, affluent audience. After Ontario legalized sports gambling in 2022, MLSE quickly partnered with major betting services PokerStars and FanDuel.

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