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The Globe and Mail

U.S. investment firm not expected to make MLSE bid

Photos of team logos above the entrance to Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment located at the Air Canada Centre at 50 Bay St. on Dec 1 2010. (Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

The U.S. private equity firm that kicked the tires on the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan's majority interest in Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd. has close ties to the pension plan but is not expected to make a bid, according to multiple sources.

An MLSE source said Providence Equity Partners LLC, which, according to a published report, took a look at MLSE, "is a cold trail."

A source in the banking industry said Providence peered in, but no longer has an interest in making a bid on the parent company of the NHL's Toronto Maple Leafs, NBA's Toronto Raptors, AHL's Toronto Marlies and Toronto FC of the MLS.

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This ties in with what Wayne Gretzky said in response to another report that Providence and other U.S.-based groups asked if the hockey legend would be interested in being the front man for a potential bid. Gretzky, through a spokesman, said the enquiries were made months ago, and nothing came of them.

Providence has numerous ties to both Canada and Teachers, which is why it was likely among the list of firms that have made enquiries about MLSE.

Teachers has for a number of years invested in Providence's funds. According to Teachers' 2010 annual report, it had more than $100-million invested with Providence.

And the two companies teamed up in a blockbuster $35-billion takeover offer for telecommunications giant BCE Inc. in 2007, a bid that eventually failed.

BCE went on to put Barry Allen, a senior adviser to Providence, on its board. And Providence's chief executive officer, Jonathan Nelson, and his team have ties to other Canadian private equity players, as well as Canadian media executives and bankers.

However, those close to both Teachers and MLSE say those ties do not translate into making a bid for the pension plan's 80-per-cent stake, which Teachers officials put up for sale last March.

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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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