Friday, December 09, 2011

ON THE BIG SALE OF THE LEAFS, RAPTORS AND FC

Here are my thoughts about the Ontario Teachers Pension Fund selling their stake in the Toronto Maple Leafs, Raptors, Marlies and FC, not to mention Air Canada Centre, to media conglomerates Rogers and BCE.

I dunno. A lot of people are worried that these two media and telecom giants are just going to take advantage of this acquisition to hose the public and monopolize their control over content in this country. I think people believe the new owners are going to regard the sports fans in Toronto as a bottomless pit of money to be taken advantage of, and ignore putting together winning teams. Besides, we've seen what Rogers ownership has done for the Toronto Blue Jays on the field. That's right: nothing. Just as MLSE current ownership has done absolutely nothing.

I'm not opposed to conglomerates owning teams as long as they don't hose the fans and commit to winning. In some ways, I think it would have been better for these teams if they were owned by some sole billionaire whose sole focus is winning - a George Steinbrenner type, or maybe a Jerry Jones or a Mark Cuban. Their teams may not win titles every year, but you can be sure they will make an effort to get top players. If their teams lose, you can be sure these owners will blow their tops and make changes.

But with conglomerates, they generally tend to look at teams more as revenue generators for their properties. I think in this case it all comes down to attitude. If these new corporate owners only care about enriching themselves and selling a product, that will be a bad thing. But if they care about actually having a winning product and spending the money that needs spent to do it, that's different. Look at Labatt's when they owned the Blue Jays -- they actually cared about having a winning product on the field, and made sure the team was well-financed to acquire top players. It was more than simply about beer sales for them.

I say the only way you'll make money in the long run with these properties is if these teams win. I don't think you can count on the fans to shell out for products that don't perform on the field, the ice or the court -- even if the team is called the Toronto Maple Leafs. Seriously, all this losing by all these Toronto teams is testing the patience of the fans to no end. The new owners need to pay attention to keeping their suffering fans happy, otherwise they're going to have a very unhappy balance sheet in the long run.

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