Billionaire's bid to buy Leafs laughable

Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Buffalo Sabres at the ACC.2nd period action Carlo Colaiacovo's Goal...

Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Buffalo Sabres at the ACC.2nd period action Carlo Colaiacovo's Goal (Toronto Sun/Greg Henkenhaf)

STEVE SIMMONS

, Last Updated: 12:36 PM ET

Billionaire Alex Shnaider is not about to purchase Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd.

Not today. Not tomorrow. Probably not ever.

Oh, the 18th richest man in Canada has interest in owning the Maple Leafs and all else that goes along with MLSEL. And Shnaider apparently has met with local investment bankers to discuss the possibility. All that is lovely, and perhaps newsworthy, but in the end it basically is meaningless.

Because you can't buy what's not for sale.

And right now, MLSEL, despite all its problems, its apparent dysfunction, its troubled hockey club, is not on the block. It is not for sale and none of the principals involved have even discussed the notion at the board level of putting it up for sale.

This isn't a public company. There are no shareholders to answer to. There is no established share price. There will be no takeover here, hostile or otherwise.

This is the kind of story that will be front page one day, forgotten in the months to come.

The fact that Shnaider has consulted both bank and industry contacts in recent weeks to determine how much money it would take to purchase MLSEL is noble, if not slightly amusing.

You see, this is one of the few areas in which Larry Tanenbaum does have legitimate power at MLSEL.

While the chairman of the board he has been unable to impact some hockey decisions (such as the removal of general manager John Ferguson), his minority stake in the $1.5-billion company, worth something in the neighbourhood of $195 million also gives him the right of first refusal on any other shares sold by his MLSEL partners.

In other words, if Tanenbaum doesn't want to sell, there is no sale, period. And his partners, including the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan, can't dispense with their shares without first offering them to Tanenbaum.

Tanenbaum, who is out of the country, has never indicated any willingness to sell his stake in MLSEL. Actually, he has indicated the opposite, which means he would like to increase his stake.

The Leafs, the gold mine of Canadian professional sports, at least from an economic standpoint, are neither for sale nor a candidate to be moved.

According to Canadian Business magazine, the Russian-born Shnaider has net worth of $2.28 billion, and is the youngest billionaire in Canada, turning 40 this year.

Already he has owned and sold a Formula One race team and has majority ownership in the Maccabi Tel Aviv pro soccer team in Israel. Again, all that is nice, but none of that brings him any closer to buying MLSEL. Especially when the company isn't for sale.


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