Canadian Phone Giants Close $1.3 Billion Deal for Top TV Sports Assets

2012 NHL Winter Classic Action Shot - P

BCE and Rogers Communications have seized a controlling 75 percent stake in Maple Leaf Sports Entertainment, which includes the Toronto Maple Leafs NHL club.

TORONTO – Canadian telecom giants Rogers Communications and BCE have completed their CAN$1.3 billion (US$1.31 billion) deal to buy a 75 percent stake in Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE), which includes the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Toronto Raptors pro sport teams.

"Investing in MLSE is part of Bell's strategy to deliver the best content of all kinds to customers across all platforms - TV, radio, mobile and digital," George Cope, president and CEO of BCE and Bell Canada, a phone giant which has diversified into Canadian media in recent years, said after closing the transaction.

“This investment fits squarely into our strategy of cost-effectively securing premium content and making it accessible to sports fans wherever, whenever they want,” Nadir Mohamed, president and CEO of Rogers Communications, the cable and wireless phone giant, said as he explained the deal in his own statement.

The CRTC, Canada’s TV regulator, last week approved the takeover of five TV networks that are part of the blockbuster deal, including Leafs TV, Gol TV and NBA TV Canada, as well as two services that have not yet launched, Mainstream Sports and Live Music Channel.

The takeover places control of Canada’s biggest pro sports team and a host of sports TV assets into the hands of Rogers and BCE subsidiary Bell Media, which separately operate the country’s top TV sport channels.

Rogers and Bell Canada formed a holding company to oversee their joint 75 percent stake in MLSE.

Larry Tanenbaum’s Kilmer Sports increased its 20.5 percent ownership stake in MLSE to 25 per cent.

The Ontario Teacher's Pension Fund sold its majority stake in MLSE, which also includes the Toronto FC soccer club and the Toronto Marlies, the Maple Leafs' farm team, to make way for Rogers and BCE to take control of the prized TV sports assets.