Search could go far and wide for Peddie's replacement

LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:22 PM ET

TORONTO - How far outside 50 Bay St. will Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd. venture to replace Richard Peddie?

With the president and CEO of the company now on a 13-month countdown to retirement, the search could go to every corner of the world — or begin and end in its own offices.

Observers are already wondering if the company is needlessly complicating the process by bringing in the California-based firm of Korn/Perry to help co-ordinate its search. MLSEL went the outside route when looking for a new hockey boss in 2008 and was given the rather obvious names of Ken Holland and Brian Burke. But MLSEL chairman Larry Tanenbaum doesn’t appear to be in a hurry to name a successor after a press release Tuesday morning announced Peddie would retire on Dec. 31, 2011.

Under the guidance of the 64-year-old Windsor native, the company enjoyed huge gains on the profit side, but not on the playing field, where the management teams he was responsible for continue to miss the playoffs in hockey, basketball and soccer.

A source familiar with the company’s ideal profile for its next CEO says MLSEL will likely seek “a 40 year old-ish version of Paul Beeston”, who was so instrumental in getting the Blue Jays off of the ground in the 1970s and is back with the team after a stint as president of Major League Baseball.

“The new guy would have to have experience in business, but also in sports-related business and public relations,” added the source.

The knock against Peddie, who helped triple the value of MLSEL to around $1.5 billion in his 13 years, was his meddling in team affairs. He did bow to public sentiment and hire established names such as Bryan Colangelo to run the Raptors and Burke for the Leafs, popular choices when announced, but both have had a couple of rough years.

There is no shortage of talented executives that could be lured to Toronto from elsewhere. Choosing another American might not be the best optics, however, since Colangelo and Burke are American-born, though Burke is a dual citizen.

Here’s a look at some possible candidates:

Tom Anselmi

Now the executive vice-president and chief operating officer, the Toronto-born Anselmi has been rumoured for this post a long time. He runs the business side of the sports’ empire, handling the key areas of marketing, corporate partnerships, broadcast, new media, community relations and human resources. His prior projects included the building of SkyDome and GM Place in Vancouver. He has organized several of the Leaf/NHL alumni trips to Afghanistan to visit troops.

He was behind the phenomenal start-up of TFC, but caught plenty of flak this season when the MLS team failed to make the playoffs again.

“Obviously, I will be honoured to be considered by our board,” Anselmi told the Toronto Sun via e-mail.

Dale Lastman

A member of the MLSEL board, the sharp-minded Lastman is co-chair of the law firm Goodmans LLP. He is the son of legendary Toronto mayor, Mel Lastman, but keeps a much lower profile and like most of the seven-man board (other than Peddie), is rarely quoted in the media. It’s believed he would prefer staying put.

Bob Hunter

Executive vice-president for venues and entertainment for MLSEL, Hunter is highly respected among peers in the stadium construction and management business. In the 1980s, the Hamilton native ran Ontario Place and was on the management team for Expo ’86 in Vancouver. He came home to take a position with SkyDome and later the ACC, when it was to be a strictly basketball facility. He also took a lead role in the building of BMO Field, the MasterCard Centre and the Leafs’ involvement in Ricoh Coliseum.

Dave Hopkinson

Little was known about the senior vice-president of business partnerships for MLSEL, until Tuesday. His name came up with a couple of people who consider him a rising star in the company.

Brian Burke

If the Leafs had more tangible results instead of concern they’ll miss the playoffs a third straight year and lose another lottery pick, this would be an easier sell. Many think Peddie had Burke in mind as a replacement when he first hired him, with David Nonis eventually taking the Leafs GM duties.

Keith Pelley

Well-liked sports authority would make a great fit, except he was recently appointed by Rogers Communications Inc. to head up its powerhouse media division, which includes broadcasting, digital media and the Blue Jays.

Paul Beeston

Right man, wrong time.


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