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Rogers Communications Inc. ended weeks of speculation yesterday with the purchase of majority control of the Toronto Blue Jays baseball team for $112-million (U.S.) in cash and stock.

Under the terms of the deal, the communications company will buy an 80-per-cent interest in the team from Interbrew SA. Labatt Brewing Co. Ltd., the Belgian brewer's Canadian subsidiary, will continue to control a 20-per-cent stake. Fifty per cent of the transaction will be financed by the issuance of Rogers class B shares.

Ted Rogers, president, chief executive officer and controlling shareholder, said the acquisition is "probably" the first in a series of sports deals. The Toronto-based communications company would like to bring a National Football League team to Toronto and has not ruled out the future acquisition of the SkyDome, the Blue Jays' home stadium.

Since Interbrew acquired the Blue Jays five years ago, attendance has suffered and the team has lost money.

Industry watchers expect Rogers will have to significantly boost the Blue Jays' current $50-million annual payroll to build a winning team. The New York Yankees, the World Series-defending champions, have a $110-million payroll. Full coverage /
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