Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment eyed by equity firm: report

Wed Nov 16, 2011 2:31pm EST
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TORONTO (Reuters) - A U.S.-based private equity firm, is looking at buying Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, the owner of Toronto's NHL and NBA sports teams, a newspaper reported on Wednesday.

Providence Equity Partners has inquired about a stake in MLSE owned by the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan, the Toronto Star reported, citing an unidentified person familiar with the matter. The newspaper said it was unclear whether the firm has made an offer.

Teachers, one of Canada's largest pension fund administrators, declined comment on the report, and Providence could not be reached immediately.

Teachers raised its stake in MLSE to around 80 percent in September after completing the purchase of a 13.46 percent stake from TD Capital Group.

Teachers said earlier this year that adding the stake would improve its chances of completing a sale of the entire holding.

MLSE owns the National Hockey League's Toronto Maple Leafs, the National Basketball Association's Raptors and the Air Canada Center (ACC), the downtown arena in which the two teams play. Its stable includes other sporting franchises, and related broadcasting assets and property.

The Maple Leafs consistently rank as the most profitable hockey franchise in the National Hockey League and the owners have poured $500 million into sport-related restaurants and shops around the ACC.

Last December, the Star reported that Rogers Communications, Canada's biggest wireless company and owner of the Toronto Blue Jays baseball club, was in talks to buy Teachers' MLSE stake, which then amounted to 66 percent, for C$1.3 billion.

Providence is a 12-year-old U.S. private equity firm with $23 billion in capital under management and focused on media, communications, information and education.

(Reporting by Pav Jordan in Toronto; Editing by Frank McGurty)