Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment strikes deal to buy Argos

Neil Davidson, Canadian Press

Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, which already owns the Maple Leafs, Marlies, Raptors and Toronto FC, is adding the CFL’s Argonauts to its portfolio.

MLSE announced Wednesday it has an agreement to buy the Grey Cup champions.

There was already some cross-ownership. The Argos are currently owned by two-thirds of the MLSE triumvirate – chairman Larry Tanenbaum’s holding company, the Kilmer Group, and Bell Canada.

In bringing the Argos fully into the MLSE fold, Rogers Communications will officially join its two MLSE partners as part of the CFL team’s ownership.

Bell and Tanenbaum bought the Argos from David Braley in May 2015 after nearly a year of talks. Rogers did not get involved at the time, with speculation that it was not interested in the franchise because the CFL was tied to Bell, through its broadcast affiliate TSN.

Rogers owns the Blue Jays, the city’s other major sports franchise, although there have been reports recently that the team may be available for the right price.

Rogers shot down that suggestion Wednesday when asked about why the change of interest in the CFL team.

“As we have said there are no plans to sell the Jays,” a Rogers spokeswoman said. “We continue to look for the best way to get credit for our incredible sports portfolio in our overall company valuation.”

The sale is expected to close in January 2018, according to MLSE.

Approval from the CFL board of governors would not seem to be a problem.

“On the heels of a stunning Grey Cup showdown with the Calgary Stampeders that highlighted the sheer excitement of Canadian football, we’re thrilled that the Argonauts will be joining the MLSE roster,” CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie said in a statement. “We welcome MLSE to the CFL and look forward to working with them to further enhance the experience for Canadian football fans.”

The Argos play at MLSE-operated BMO Field, home to the newly crowned MLS champion Toronto FC.

While the lakefront stadium has more character and offers a more intimate viewing experience than the domed Rogers Centre, fans have taken a while to warm up to it. The Argos drew just 11,219 spectators to a June 30 home loss to the B.C. Lions. But attendance grew as Toronto mounted its playoff push with the Eastern final against Saskatchewan drawing 24,929.

“We look forward to building on the Argos’ strong momentum as we welcome the team to the leading provider of sports and entertainment experiences in Canada,” MLSE president and CEO Michael Friisdahl said in a statement.

Braley, who also owns the B.C. Lions, took control of the Argos in February 2010 from Toronto businessmen David Cynamon and Howard Sokolowski.

Founded in 1873, the Toronto Argonauts are North America’s oldest continuously operated professional football club.

The club has had its ups and downs both on and off the field.

Cynamon and Sokolowski bought the team after the CFL took over the franchise in 2003 from New York businessman Sherwood Schwarz, who had become the franchise’s ninth owner in 2000.

The team has had some star power in the front office in the past.

In 1991, Harry Ornest sold the Argonauts to a group spearheaded by L.A. Kings owner Bruce McNall, Wayne Gretzky and comedian/actor John Candy.


34 Comments on Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment strikes deal to buy Argos

  1. Ouch – the financial loses must been enormous for the empty house football club , Sugar Coat it Copeland/Ambrosie !

  2. Paul Garner // December 13, 2017 at 4:55 pm //

    Great news for the Toronto Argonauts and great news for the Canadian Football League and its fans. I hope MLSE can market the team and grow the product in a tough sports market. I hope they can successfully find a niche for the Argos among all the other teams. Winning the Grey Cup was instrumental to the franchise and the league. There is great opportunity there to tap into the Corporate Market and sell a Canadian Product. Good News for all.

  3. Ghostrider // December 13, 2017 at 5:34 pm //

    Good news.
    The Toronto Argonauts now join the Calgary Stampeders as the most powerful organizations in the CFL.

    • Ghost rider is funny. He knows the Riders are the most powerful team in the CFL. 3rd best sports brand in Canada behind the Maple Leafs and The Canadians. Look it up. The Stamps don’t appear there or no where close. You need to have a team that doesn’t choke and has a loyal fan base. He must not attend Stamps games..McMahon has quite a few empty ole rickety seats.

      • Being rich & being powerful are 2 different things. MLSE is without doubt the richest ownership in the CFL, FAR above the community owned Riders, so let’s put that to rest shall we? To argue that is just stupid. As far as the Board of Governors, David Braley has had the most influence for much of recent times & the Eskimos had a lot of clout for years. TO likely will wield a lot of influence going forward as that franchise’s survival is tied intimately to the league’s. With 20% of Canada’s population in that area, there IS no tv contract without TO. TSN isn’t paying multi- millions to advertise to the Regina market. So though Regina is a wonderful success story the CFL would survive without them. Not so without TO. It is what it is.

      • Stomping into 2018 // December 13, 2017 at 11:42 pm //

        In a league like the CFL, having popularity means nothing. All the jersey sales in the world won’t give you the deep pockets of MLSE or Calgary Sports and Entertainment.
        Fact is you lost many millions 2 years ago and last year made $30,000.00 on 17 million in revenue. To put it in perspective 17 million probably wouldn’t cover the top 2 Flames salaries.
        Money is power! In truth we could destroy your organization with in a snap. I’m not saying that to be a jerk I’m saying that to make my point.

  4. The most power in what way?

    • Ghostrider // December 13, 2017 at 6:01 pm //

      Because they are both owned by big, deep pocketed corporations.

      • Because of the salary cap in the CFL, how does deep pockets help them?

        • batkinson001 // December 13, 2017 at 6:27 pm //

          Marketing and advertising, ability to cover annual losses and weather the lean years to come.

        • Ghostrider // December 13, 2017 at 6:30 pm //

          lol wow really?
          Well Greenland. A sports franchise is a business like any other and there are many more costs than players salary. In fact Players salaries. The 5.1 million cap is actually covered by the annual amount for each team in the TSN TV deal.

          • So when are those deep pockets going to start helping the stamps? Seem like all the marketing goes to the flames.

        • Lancaster/Reed // December 13, 2017 at 7:32 pm //

          It helps by being able top up players salaries under the parent company so they can hide it from the salary cap.

  5. The TFC Red Patches fan club will be pissed off…because that is what they do.

  6. BleedzGreen // December 13, 2017 at 7:37 pm //

    Win-win for both the team and the league. Things are shaping up nicely for the boatmen.

  7. Remember

    MLSE wanted to kick the CFL in the nuts 2 years ago and bring in the Bills – Permanently, of course with Rogers

    Geez you guys

    • Smarterthanthis // December 13, 2017 at 7:53 pm //

      MLSE includes Bell, Larry Tannebaum, and Rogers. Two of those three already own the Argos. Rogers kept MLSE itself from buying them for some of the reasons you state plus the CFL rights are with Bell/TSN; they must have had a change of heart (perhaps because they’re serious about selling the Jays).

  8. I don’t understand the relationship with Bell Media k Rogers. They are competitors in business yet both own the Maple Leafs, Raptors & TFC. I always thought Rogers would be dead set against owing thee Argos as they wanted to pursue an NFL franchise. Don’t know what’s changed since then.

  9. Ticat Mike // December 13, 2017 at 8:51 pm //

    Great move for Argos and the league.

  10. This is very good for the CFL. Now the Argos have plenty of funds to be able to afford Zach Collaros contract. I would anticipate a deal right after this deal closes.

    • Don’t think you know how the CFL salary cap works. Also, you don’t think Bell and Tannebaum could afford the contract on their own?

  11. Rogers has also increased its CFL coverage recently (albeit from miniscule to low). My guess is there is a media deal in the works that will involve Rogers carrying an occasional CFL game. Even though TSN has done an amazing job with TV coverage, no other league puts all its eggs in one basket. Broader TV distribution would be good for the league. If Rogers doesn’t do it, I’ll bet Shaw does.

  12. MLSE still wants the NFL in Trana , CFL you need two sets of sets of eyes and a good change of undies

    MLSE will screw – you for the NFL , anti-trust here we come

  13. Ghost showing off his high school education once again but still trying to pretend Calgary is a big power city hahaha. Go to bed son. Let the big boys out east take care of business sweetheart.

  14. Feeling Blue // December 13, 2017 at 10:04 pm //

    All Hands on Deck

  15. Great news in general for the CFL.
    The new Commish is really making it happen.
    Let’s get to the Maritimes and this league is going to thrive.
    CFL much more exciting football than the NFL.

  16. Great news for the Argos and the CFL.Finally the CFL gets the respect it deserves. So that’s why the Argos were invited to drop the puck at centre ice at ACC Before the Flames/leafs game.

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