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MLSE board expected to undergo major change after sale is finalized

(L - R) CEO of BCE/Bell Canada George Cope, CEO of Rogers Communications Nadir Mohamed and Chairman of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (MLSE) Larry Tanenbaum attend a news conference announcing the sale of MLSE in Toronto December 9, 2011.

MARK BLINCH/REUTERS

In a couple of weeks, Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke will have a new group of owners asking when he will get a goaltender.

Multiple sources say the long-awaited sale of a majority interest in Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd., to Rogers Communications Inc., and BCE Inc., is on schedule to close Aug. 1. The $1.3-billion purchase was approved by the NHL board of governors in late June and sources say the NBA governors are expected to do the same Thursday at their meeting in Las Vegas.

Previously, the Canadian Competition Bureau approved the sale of 75 per cent of MLSE, which includes the Maple Leafs, their basketball cousins, the Toronto Raptors, Toronto FC of the Major Soccer League, the Air Canada Centre, three sports channels, a minor-league hockey team and some real-estate developments among its major holdings. The only approval that has not been received is from the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, although that is not expected to prevent the sale from closing.

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CRTC approval is needed concerning the sale of MLSE's three sports specialty channels, Leafs TV, Raptors TV and GolTV. A source with knowledge of the CRTC's operations said the government body is not expected to issue a decision by Aug. 1, but those familiar with MLSE's operations say the closing can proceed with the CRTC approval coming later.

Once the sale closes, the MLSE board of directors will undergo a major change. It will shrink from seven directors to six, as the incoming company president is not expected to get a seat. Leaving the board will be Robert Bertram, Jane Rowe, Glen Silvestri and Ashvin Malkani, who represented the former owner, the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan Board. Richard Peddie stepped down from the board when he retired as MLSE president earlier this year.

The only holdovers on the new board will be MLSE chairman Larry Tanenbaum, who owns the other 25 per cent of the company, and his long-time associate Dale Lastman. The other four directors' seats will be split equally between Rogers and BCE. A source said Rogers chief executive officer Nadir Mohamed and BCE CEO George Cope will be on the board but it isn't known who the other BCE and Rogers representatives will be.

It also is not known if the new owners have settled on a replacement for Peddie as MLSE president. The leading internal candidate is MLSE's chief operating officer, Tom Anselmi, who appears to have the support of Tanenbaum and Lastman. But both Rogers and Bell have kept their feelings quiet. The hiring of a new president will require the unanimous approval of the MLSE board.

There will be an interesting twist in how power is shared on the new board of directors. Bell and Rogers agreed that their four votes on the six-person board will always vote as one, which will prevent any deadlocks. It would also prevent Tanenbaum from aligning himself with one company against another if they disagree on an issue. Apparently, Bell and Rogers will hash it out in private how they will vote before any vote is taken.

Bell and Rogers are also expected to form a new company, which will hold their MLSE stake.

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About the Author
Hockey columnist

A native of Wainfleet, Ont., David Shoalts joined The Globe in 1984 after working at the Calgary Herald, Calgary Sun and Toronto Sun. He graduated in 1978 from Conestoga College and also attended the University of Waterloo. More

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