It’s the corporate equivalent of the Maple Leafs adding a big, strong star first-line centre—something the team and pundits have been jawing about for years. Parent company Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment has just signed up a superstar suit, naming Tim Leiweke as its new president and CEO.
Leiweke is the former president and CEO of Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), the international sports and entertainment company that owns the reigning Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings, the reigning MLS Cup champion Los Angeles Galaxy, a stake in the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers, as well as sport and entertainment facilities such as the Staples Center, the Home Depot Center, the L.A. Live entertainment complex, and other high-profile venues around the world.
Which is to say that as of June 30 when his term starts, MLSE will be Leiweke’s ship. Toronto sports fans were concerned that the powers that be at Rogers and Bell would name a homegrown Yes Man and keep their beloved teams spiraling in the cycle of mediocrity that’s made them all dizzy over the last decade. Many devotees of the Leafs, Raptors, Toronto FC and Marlies were overcome with flop sweats at the prospect of current president and chief operating officer Tom Anselmi geting the top job, given his five years steering TFC made the soccer club look more like a bumper car than a Cadillac.
The rumour mill around Leiweke and MLSE really got rolling in March, days after he stepped down from his AEG post “by mutual agreement” and reportedly landed in Toronto. Amid the speculation, an industry source told the Toronto Star, “(AEG) let Tim spend money and was all about growing the company. Have Bell and Rogers figured out if they want to grow the company?”
That may be far from answered just yet, but for his part Leiweke is saying all the right things. He told the Los Angeles Times that he’s very excited because MLSE represents a larger platform—the sports teams, the media assets, the condos et al—than he started with at AEG. Then he said something that will be music to fans’ ears. “We’re not going to focus on growth outside of our core assets. They want to win, and so that’s priority No. 1: build a long-term contender in hockey, basketball and soccer. And they have ambitions, and so we will grow, and that is a priority.”
Let the honeymoon begin.