From the Toronto Star:
Two years after communications rivals Rogers and Bell decided to go into business together as co-owners of the Maple Leaf sports empire, the strains in the “unholy” alliance are finally starting to show.
This week at the NHL board of governors meetings in Pebble Beach, Calif., the Leafs were the only club that declined to approve the landmark $5.2-billion television and digital rights deal between the 30-team NHL and Rogers Communications that stunned the hockey world late last month.
Multiple sources confirmed that the vote was 29-0 in favour of approving the 12-year agreement. The Leafs, represented by Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment chairman Larry Tanenbaum and CEO Tim Leiweke, shocked the meeting by abstaining from the vote.
And that’s not all. Apparently there was a rather “contentious” MLSE board meeting the other day, fueled by that massive Canadian TV deal that shut out Bell-owned TSN.
All of which should come as no surprise, given Rogers and Bell are fierce competitors. One really does have to wonder if their “unholy alliance” is built for the long run.
The Globe and Mail’s David Shoalts is hearing a different version of events:
…sources with the NHL and MLSE who did not wish to be identified because of the sensitive nature of the corporate relationships between the various parties, said the bitterness between BCE and Rogers had nothing to do with the abstention. Bettman did not have to step in to prevent a potentially embarrassing no vote from the Leafs because Tanenbaum had already decided on the advice of Lastman and MLSE’s lawyers that he would abstain.
But Shoalts doesn’t downplay the potentially problematic relationship between the two companies:
There has already been friction over the firing of Brian Burke last January as the president and general manager of the Maple Leafs and there will be more ahead as some of the regional rights deals with a few of the Canadian NHL teams expire in the coming months.