MLSEL chairman is paving the way

GEORGE GROSS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:11 AM ET

Larry Tanenbaum has navigated a long and sometimes circuitous route from the ivied walls of Cornell University to become chairman of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd.

Tanenbaum also has been involved in the building of the CN Tower, the Spadina Expressway, a few hotels, the Metro Zoo ride as well as assorted projects in Africa, Asia and Venezuela.

But while Tanenbaum is proud of his construction and business achievements, his goals in life are rooted in a completely different area.

"My goals in life are winning the Stanley Cup (with the Maple Leafs), the NBA championship (with the Raptors) and the Major League Soccer title (with the Toronto FC)," he told me from his plush King St., office the other day.

I asked him what he is doing toward reaching his goals and he stickhandled around the question his way better than Bobby Orr in his heyday.

"The key is getting the right people in the right places for it to happen)," Tanenbaum said. "People totally dedicated and true professionals. I'm referring to people such as Bryan Colangelo, John Ferguson Jr., Richard Peddie, Tom Anselmi.

"It takes a team to respond to the challenge and then, of course, the guys on the ice, on the basketball court and the soccer pitch."

The chairman didn't elaborate when I asked him about specific Leafs and Raptors players. He leaves that to his hockey and basketball experts. He didn't even talk about his protege, Tie Domi.

Tanenbaum may have to wait a while for his dreams to be fulfilled, but he built his career on patience and clever judgment.

As a student at Cornell, Tanenbaum worked his way up to be the manager of the hockey team with former NHL coach Ned Harkness, the on-ice mentor.

The fact that Tanenbaum's father, Max, left him a fortune didn't make things more difficult for Larry. In 1958, Max bought Kilmer Van Nostrand Co. Ltd. -- which started out as a small road building firm in 1905 -- but was near bankruptcy when Max stepped in and rescued it.

Young Lawrence learned a lot from his father. He bought into several companies and merged some of his older holdings with his newer acquisitions. One of his first big moves was purchasing the Warren Paving Co., in 1979, then Canada's largest in that field.

Tanenbaum also befriended Paul Godfrey when the latter was a councillor in North York and their friendship and business association continues to this day.

The two shared a dream.

"Paul and I were always interested in an NFL franchise for Toronto," Tanenbaum said. "I think we have a reasonable chance to land an NFL team in Toronto, perhaps in five years, or so."

Mind you, getting an NFL franchise and then winning the Super Bowl with it may be one of his unspoken goals.

Tanenbaum's association with the Leafs began in 1996 when he bought into the team. Just like his predecessor, Steve Stavro, Tanenbaum is fully immersed in working toward a Stanley Cup winner, although he realizes that it might take some time.

But he hasn't given up. He is convinced his patience will eventually pay off and that the road less travelled, but perhaps paved by his business holdings, may yet bring another championship parade to Toronto.


Videos

Photos