Friday, December 9, 2011

Robber Barons Up In The Frozen Tundra

Last year I expressed dismay that Mike Ilitch, owner of the Detroit Red Wings and Detroit Tigers, was seeking to get his hands on the Pistons as well. In the event, a different buyer bought the Pistons from Karen Davidson and I was pleased.

Today comes news that Rogers Communications and Bell Canada are buying Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment from the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan. Rogers and Bell will each have a 37.5% stake. Though MLSE, Rogers now is the effective co-controlling owner of the Raptors, Maple Leafs, Air Canada Centre, and (not mentioned in the Reuters article) Toronto FC of Major League Soccer. And Rogers already owns a controlling share of the Blue Jays and Skydome (er, excuse me, "Rogers Centre"). The only independently owned pro club in Toronto is now the Argonauts.

This cannot be good news for Toronto sports fans or cable TV subscribers. Rogers and Bell each own a cable TV channel (Sportsnet and TSN) and collectively they hope to corner the market on Leafs and Raptors broadcasts. Ticket prices and sports apparel will likely spike as well. Canada's Competition Bureau must stop this purchase.

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