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Leiweke shuffles senior management at MLSE, streamlines operations

Exteriors of Air Canada Centre and the entrance to Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment which is located there.

Fred Lum/Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Richard Peddie can sit back now and watch it all. He has a book in the works, due out in the fall, and while Tim Leiweke's whirlwind first few weeks as Peddie's replacement has caused a few rewrites, the former president and chief executive officer of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd., saw Wednesday's organizational restructuring as hardly a surprise.

"I've taken over five or six companies, and more than that if you study what happens when a new CEO comes into an organization you'll find that 50 per cent of the management team changes," Peddie said Wednesday, after Leiweke turned his attention to the executive offices at MLSE and concluded a restructuring in which three long-time executives left the company and several remaining executives were given expanded roles. "Part of it's finding people who fit your style of leadership; part of it's often a change in business direction."

Leiweke's signature move remains the firing of Bryan Colangelo as Toronto Raptors general manager. Wednesday's cull was, in his words, "about changes off the ice, court and pitch designed to enable us to better serve our fans and customers."

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The new structure will feature a senior leadership team operating under Leiweke. That team will include Tom Anselmi, who will retain the title of chief operating officer and who held Leiweke's position after the departure of Peddie in 2012. It is expected that Anselmi will handle all broadcast and content-related matters because of the departure of Chris Hebb, who held the title of senior vice-president of content and communications.

Also leaving MLSE as part of the shakeup are Beth Robertson, senior vice-president in charge of ticket sales and service and Mardi Walker, senior VP in charge of people.

Joining Anselmi on the senior leadership team are Ian Clarke, MLSE's chief financial officer and David Hopkinson, chief commercial officer while Peter Miller will be chief legal and development officer and Bob Hunter sees his role expanded to chief facilities and live entertainment officer. Shannon Hosford (vice-president of marketing and communications,) Jeff Deline (vice-president of global partnerships) and Tom Pistore, vice-president of ticket sales and service, will work under Hopkinson in a team that that the organization says will focus on "streamlined communication and interaction with its fans."

Leiweke's tenure has so far been marked by bold pronouncements of intent that have garnered him his share of off-season headlines and criticism. He has particularly touched sensibilities with a stated intent to give less prominence to representations of the Maple Leafs' history, reasoning that after 46 years without a Stanley Cup there is an element of historical fatigue.

It is a marked departure from the public face MLSE has shown in the past, and the city's business community had been anticipating a day such as Wednesday for some time. While these moves aren't as sexy as the canning of Colangelo, they are seen as another element of Leiweke's imprimatur on the $2.25-billion company, which owns the Raptors, Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto FC, Toronto Marlies, three digital sports channels and several real estate holdings.

The departure of Hebb is a sign, Peddie said, of the influence of Rogers Communications Ltd., and BCE Inc., who together own 75 per cent of MLSE. Hebb was in charge of the digital TV channels – Leafs TV, NBA TV Canada and GolTV Canada – which Peddie said was a means of "keeping the big TV companies honest," when it came to rights fees. Peddie's plan envisioned what he referred to as a 'big box' sports network along the lines of the New York Yankees YES Network. It was to be called 'Real Sports.'

"We thought it was going to be huge," Peddie said, "but when the new owners came in, that all changed."

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