Melinda Rogers-Hixon, the deputy chair of Rogers Communications Inc., has left the board of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, the parent company of hockey’s Toronto Maple Leafs and basketball’s Toronto Raptors, amid a skirmish over the sports empire’s ownership.
Although Ms. Rogers-Hixon’s departure from the MLSE board was not publicly announced, her name has been removed from the list of directors on the company’s website. She has been replaced by David Miller, a former Rogers RCI-B-T executive whose title is listed as special adviser to the CEO of Rogers.
Rogers felt it needed someone with a legal background to join MLSE’s board, according to a statement sent by Rogers spokesperson Sarah Schmidt: “David Miller’s expertise in corporate law, including his involvement in the original deal to invest in MLSE, made him the ideal candidate.”
Ms. Rogers-Hixon “was supportive of the change and resigned,” the statement added.
A spokesperson for Ms. Rogers-Hixon declined to comment on her departure from the board, referring questions to Rogers Communications.
The change comes as Rogers and BCE Inc. BCE-T are challenging some of the terms in MLSE chairman Larry Tanenbaum’s plan to raise $400-million by selling a 20-per-cent stake in a family-controlled holding company, Kilmer Sports Inc., to the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System pension plan.
Kilmer Sports owns 25 per cent of MLSE, while Rogers and BCE evenly split the remaining 75 per cent through a jointly owned holding company.
The Globe and Mail previously reported that during the summer, Rogers and BCE sent a joint letter to Mr. Tanenbaum in which they raised questions about the terms of the proposed sale. The nature of their concerns is unclear.
Mr. Miller joins two other Rogers representatives on MLSE’s board: Tony Staffieri, the chief executive of the Toronto-based telecom and media giant, and the company’s chairman, Edward Rogers, who is Ms. Rogers-Hixon’s brother.
BCE’s representatives include its chief executive Mirko Bibic and its chief human resources officer and executive vice-president of corporate services Nikki Moffat. Dale Lastman, the chair of law firm Goodmans LLP, is also a director.
Rogers and Bell first invested in MLSE in 2012, acquiring their majority stake for $1.32-billion. As part of that transaction, the two telecom giants negotiated the right to purchase Mr. Tanenbaum’s MLSE shares in 2026, at a price to be determined.
The showdown over MLSE’s ownership is playing out while valuations of pro sports teams are soaring thanks to rising revenues from broadcast fees and gambling. Traditional television networks are shelling out more for rights to games owing to competition from streaming services such as Amazon Prime.
In the fall of 2021, Mr. Rogers and Ms. Rogers-Hixon were on opposite sides of a high-profile boardroom battle over leadership and control of Rogers Communications. The conflict, which divided the Rogers family, broke out when Mr. Rogers attempted to replace the company’s then-CEO, Joe Natale, with its chief financial officer, Mr. Staffieri. The move faced opposition from the majority of the company’s board, including from Mr. Rogers’s mother, Loretta Rogers, and two of his sisters, including Ms. Rogers-Hixon.
Mr. Rogers wound up replacing five of the company’s independent directors through a written resolution, without holding a shareholder meeting, and the new board subsequently fired Mr. Natale and replaced him with Mr. Staffieri. Mr. Natale and the company are now embroiled in a legal battle.