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From left, BCE CEO George Cope, Rogers Communications CEO Nadir Mohamed and MLSE chairman Larry Tanenbaum attend a news conference announcing the sale of MLSE in Toronto Dec. 9, 2011. (MARK BLINCH/REUTERS)
From left, BCE CEO George Cope, Rogers Communications CEO Nadir Mohamed and MLSE chairman Larry Tanenbaum attend a news conference announcing the sale of MLSE in Toronto Dec. 9, 2011. (MARK BLINCH/REUTERS)

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Bell, Rogers now official owners of MLSE Add to ...

The sale of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment and its sports television channels to two of Canada’s biggest media companies, BCE Inc. and Rogers Communications Inc. is final.

The closing of the $1.07-billion deal on Wednesday comes after the sale received the final regulatory green light last week from the CRTC.

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Competitors Rogers and Bell, which will jointly own a 75-per-cent stake in MLSE, both said the investment furthers their strategies of acquiring content to draw viewers to their networks on a variety of platforms.

As part of the CRTC’s approval, BCE and Rogers will be required to spend $7.5-million over the next seven years on sports-themed programming. The federal broadcast regulator repeated its assertion that companies are prohibited from offering television programs on an exclusive basis to their mobile or Internet subscribers.

MLSE owns the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey team as well as the Toronto Raptors basketball team and Toronto FC soccer team. It also owns Leafs TV, Gol TV and NBA TV Canada.

Critics of the deal have raised questions about the effect of putting so much content in the hands of some of Canada’s largest companies, fearing consumers will ultimately pay more. BCE already owns CTV Inc. and the TSN specialty sports channels and Rogers owns the Sportsnet TV channels. Both have extensive telecom networks and other media holdings that could benefit from tie-ins to the MLSE teams.

Rogers already owns the Toronto Blue Jays baseball team and their stadium, the Rogers Centre, as well as Sportsnet. Bell owns the CTV television network and specialty cable channels such as TSN sports channel and French-language cable channel RDS. Bell also has a minority ownership stake in the Montreal Canadiens.

Rogers and Bell will pay the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan about $533-million apiece for their respective 37.5-per-cent chunks of MLSE. Minority owner Larry Tannenbaum, through his company Kilmer Sports, will boost his current stake in MLSE by five per cent to 25 per cent.

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