King of denial? Leiweke to leave MLSE by next year

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After strongly refuting reports he was stepping down as president and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, Tim Leiweke is stepping down as president and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment.

On Thursday, MLSE chairman Larry Tanembaum announced that Leiweke would leave his post by June 30, 2015, or until a replacement had been found.

“Under Tim’s leadership, MLSE has made a number of key moves to strengthen our organization on the path to championship success,” Tanenbaum said in a statement. “We look forward to closely working with Tim to build on this foundation and further accelerate our momentum as we seek a new leader for MLSE.”

Leiweke, 57, became the president and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment in June of last year, after a lengthy stint in the same position of the Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), which owns the Los Angeles Kings. In his statement, Leiweke alluded to “new opportunities on the horizon” as part of the reason for his departure.

(And, to be fair to Leiweke, his denials of CBC’s original report were somewhat honest — he denied he was stepping down soon, saying that he was “fully committed to the season at hand.” Which he kind of is.)

Though he oversaw the NBA’s Toronto Raptors, MLS’ Toronto FC and the Maple Leafs, Leiweke received a good chunk of his press over the last year with regards to the hockey club. Early in his tenure, Leiweke said he wanted to be a “hero” in Toronto (adding he already had a Stanley Cup parade route planned), comments the Toronto Star called “laughable,” adding that “in the cultivation of executive arrogance, the new guy in town is intent on scaling new heights.”

A month later, Leiweke caused more controversy when he ordered the removal of pictures of the Leafs’ Stanley Cup team from the dressing room hallway.

“I don’t want the players walking in the hallways of the Air Canada Centre and seeing pictures from 1962,” Leiweke told Bloomberg. “Get rid of those pictures and tell them, this is your legacy.”

He later apologized, saying the decision wasn’t directed at Leafs alumni but rather a challenge to the current squad.

On Leiweke’s watch, the Leafs also hired 28-year-old assistant GM Kyle Dubas and took a major step forward in utilizing advanced analytics, reportedly hiring a trio of bloggers/website administrators to head up their stats department.