Rogers in talks to buy Maple Leafs and Raptors: report

Wed Dec 1, 2010 10:32am EST
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TORONTO (Reuters) - Rogers Communications is in talks to buy a majority stake in Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, which would give it pro hockey's Toronto Maple Leafs, pro basketball's Toronto Raptors, and a dominant hold on Canadian sports broadcasting, a newspaper said on Wednesday.

The Toronto Star said Rogers, one of Canada's biggest telecom and media businesses, is offering C$1.3 billion ($1.3 billion) to buy a 66 percent stake in MLSE from the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan.

It would be the largest deal in Canadian sports history and would give Rogers control of all of the top professional sports teams in Toronto, Canada's biggest city, with the exception of the Argonauts of the Canadian Football League.

Rogers already owns Major League Baseball's Toronto Blue Jays. The deal with Maple Leaf Sports would also give Rogers the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League and the Toronto FC of North America's Major League Soccer.

The Toronto Star, citing sources close to the deal, said it was not clear if Rogers was the only bidder.

A Rogers spokeswoman said that company does not comment on "rumor or speculation," while a spokeswoman for MLSE said it had no knowledge of any discussions taking place.

"If there were any (discussions) it would be an ownership matter so I would refer your questions to the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan," spokeswoman Rajani Kamath told Reuters.

Teachers' said its policy was "to neither confirm nor deny such stories".

Andrew Zimbalist, a sports economist at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, said the C$1.3 billion price quoted by the Star was a hefty one.   Continued...

<p>Tampa Bay Lightning Dana Tyrell is stopped on a shot by Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Jonas Gustavsson during the frist period of their NHL game in Toronto, November 30, 2010. REUTERS/Mark Blinch</p>