March 13, 2011
Welcome to Rogersville
By MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency
Welcome to ďRogersville,Ē the community formerly known as Toronto.
Donít laugh. It could happen.
Should media giant Rogersí Communications get its corporate paws on the 66% majority share of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd. that the Ontario Teachersí Pension Plan is considering selling, the majority of the professional sports franchises in this city will find themselves under one umbrella.
While fellow communications bigwig Bell and MLSEL chairman Larry Tanenbaum are also expected to be serious suitors in these high-stakes sweepstakes, when all is said and done, the possibility of being able to so firmly control the Toronto pro sporting landscape must have the suits at Rogersí headquarters drooling with anticipation.
And with good reason.
By outbidding its rivals in a speculated auction that sources suggest could run as high as $1.5 billion, Rogers could become the first entity to own teams in the Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League, the American Hockey League, the National Basketball Association and Major League Soccer.
Rogers already owns the Blue Jays and the stadium they play in, the Rogers Centre. Acquiring the controlling chunk of MLSEL shares would net them the lucrative package of the Maple Leafs, Marlies, Raptors and Toronto FC, as well.
And letís not forget that Rogers already has dipped its rich little hands into the National Football League cookie jar, bringing regular season Buffalo Bills games to Toronto thanks to an agreement between the late Ted Rogers and Bills owner Ralph Wilson. While some critics argue that the games have hardly delivered the dose of NFL fever to Toronto that many predicted, there remains legitimate paranoia down in western New York that Rogers will outbid any and all comers in an auction for the Bills franchise once Wilson dies, setting the table for a permanent move to Toronto.
Letís not get ahead of ourselves. That remains pure speculation.
As for the immediate future involving the sale of MLSEL shares, it is known that Rogers already started kicking tires on that very possibility last year. According to NHL sources, Rogers already has examined some of the numbers in the MLSEL books.
Neither of those facts makes the purchase a fait accompli for Rogers. Far from it.
At the same time, going into a potential auction with full financial guns blazing is a win-win prospect for the corporation.
Just imagine the possibilities. Weíre sure the corporate brass at Rogers already has.
In the summer, fans will go to see the Rogers-owned Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre. Or, for those who get their kicks out of soccer, an afternoon at Rogers (Donít Call it BMO) Field watching Toronto FC might be the sporting
experience of choice.
With the fall comes the arrival of Leafs and Raptors seasons, one which Rogers officials would gleefully welcome in the event they controlled both franchises. And if Air Canada, by that time, is still in a huff over its perception of too much violence in the NHL and ultimately pulls its naming rights, those teams might be performing in a rink on Bay St. renamed the Rogers Arena.
The Marlies? Goodbye Ricoh, hello Rogers Coliseum.
Like we said: pure speculation.
But it just makes too much sense.
With the recent infusion of funds Rogers has pumped into Sportnetís television, radio and web branches, the lure of one day owning five Toronto pro sports teams and controlling their broadcast rights, well, whatís not to like?
That doesnít mean those franchises would be successful.
For example, Cablevision Systems Corp., of Beth Page, N.Y., includes Madison Square Garden Inc. among its major sports holdings. While MSG is a separate company, it shares the same chairman and owns the worldís most famous arena, the NHL Rangers, AHLís Connecticut Whale, the NBA Knicks, the WNBA Liberty and the MSG Network.
An impressive resume, sure. But not too many recent championships, especially for the Rangers and Knicks.
Of course, if it should come to pass that Rogers does land control of the shares and you have a dislike for the company (perhaps they keep screwing you on your cable bill), relax. You could always go to Argo or Rock games. They are not part of Mr. Rogersí neighbourhood because Rogers doesnít own them.