The skinny on MLSEL

The suits that run Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (Sun Media photo).

The suits that run Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (Sun Media photo).

STEVE SIMMONS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 4:14 PM ET

The many myths of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd., are spread almost daily: Some of them true, some not, most of them either confusing or contradictory.

It is that time of year again -- and when hasn't it been with this company? -- when rumours about MLSEL are being whispered and separating fact from fiction depends upon who you speak with and which agenda they happen to uphold.

STORY GOING AROUND

Larry Tanenbaum, the chairman of the board but the minority stakeholder, would like to increase his share in MLSEL.

Tanenbaum is a chairman without control of the board. He would like more say. A year ago, he attempted to have John Ferguson removed as general manager of the Maple Leafs, but failed to get the support to do so.

"Everyone thinks he is the guy with power, but that is just not true," an MLSEL insider said.

Tanenbaum has attempted -- and will continue to do so -- to partner up with David Thomson (son of the late Ken Thomson) or Ted Rogers or someone else to acquire a large stake of MLSEL. Until then, his title will be fancier than his ability to act as anything but an owner without portfolio. Tanenbaum does have right of first refusal on any shares put up for sale.

"No one wants to win more than Larry," said the insider. "But for a guy who made his living building highways, he has to overcome some roadblocks to get there."

MISCONCEPTION NO. 1

The role of the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan as majority owner of the Maple Leafs, Raptors, the Air Canada Centre and more has been misunderstood and often mis-stated.

Profit and dividends are not -- and never have been -- the Teachers' game. Buying into MLSEL was an equity buy for the pension fund. It buys in at a price, sells out at a price: Profit comes from the sale.

This has been a lucrative buy for the Teachers', which truly has no business owning a sports empire because it cares not whether its teams win or lose.

Are the Leafs, for example, worth more as an eighth-place team than they are as a ninth-place team? Teachers' only cared when one of its assets, the Raptors, was falling in value.

The role of Robert Bertram, James Leech and Dean Metcalf, the Teachers' representatives on the MLSEL board, is that of high-priced shmoozer. In fairness, this is the ultimate position to be in: You can act as if you own the Leafs and the Raptors, hang around the dressing room, the directors' lounge, take in the perqs and have no personal investment at all.

Little-known Bertram was paid $6.17 million by the Teachers' last year and little-known Leech earned $3.87 million. They are higher paid than most Leafs players, probably wouldn't know Hal Gill from Todd Gill, and would not want to see the Teachers' sell its share because that would end its own entry into the sporting world.

The Teachers' has made huge paper money on this investment. It has long been in the Leafs' best interest that Teachers' sells its shares and gets out of the sporting game. Just don't expect the board members, who enjoy the lives of owners without paying to be owners, to agree.

MISCONCEPTION NO. 2

If you listen to Leafs Lunch often enough, you will hear Tanenbaum and CEO Richard Peddie linked together as the biggest problems with MLSEL. While some may believe this to be true, it is also humorous.

Tanenbaum would like to replace Peddie, but again doesn't have the power to do so. Peddie, a former Tanenbaum hire, made a political end run on his former boss and cuddled up to Teachers' when he saw who was going to be in charge. Peddie's attempts into sport -- hiring Rob Babcock and John Ferguson are two moves that come to mind -- have been wildly criticized. But Peddie has been good for building the business and, in Teachers' world, that's all that matters.

If given the choice, Peddie would love to see Tanenbaum go and Tanenbaum would love to see Peddie go. Linking the two together -- problematic as either might be -- paints a most inaccurate portrait.

STORY THAT WON'T GO AWAY

Every time Peddie's job seems to be in jeopardy, the name Paul Beeston appears as a candidate to replace the CEO.

This is just about Toronto's oldest sporting rumour and many have worked behind the scenes to try and keep this -- and his non-candidacy -- alive.

The truth is, there aren't many jobs that would put Beeston, the ex-Blue Jays' boss, back to work, but the MLSEL job happens to be one of them.

But so far a) there is no job; b) no one is offering; c) he isn't applying; d) unless the Teachers' sell or has a change of heart, Peddie isn't going anywhere.

THE NEW RUMOUR

The board of MLSEL is so smitten with Bryan Colangelo as general manager of the Raptors that it would like to deepen his involvement with the company.

Colangelo, not Beeston, is now considered the most likely to replace Peddie.

As the story goes, they would like to put Colangelo in charge of both the Raptors and the Leafs and have him hire general managers who report to him.

This would be nothing new to the Colangelo family. Bryan's father, Jerry, operated the Phoenix Suns and the Arizona Diamondbacks at the same time, winning a World Series ring in Phoenix.

It isn't known if the younger Colangelo, the highest paid executive in the NBA, has any interest in a more corporate, financial and less sporting position.

Conclusion, if There Is One

For all the MLSEL rumours that are out there, little seems to change.

This much we know: There is not a qualified sporting voice of experience on the board of directors. There is no owner. Just a company more adept at making money than winning hockey games.


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