Ontario Teachers’ scraps plan to sell Maple Leaf Sports

Posted 11/28/11

TORONTO - The Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan will keep its 80 percent stake in Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment Ltd., scrapping plans to sell the company that owns Toronto’s professional hockey and basketball teams.

“Teachers’ has concluded this eight-month process with the decision to maintain its stake in MLSE, which has been and continues to be a very successful investment,” the pension fund said Friday in a statement.

Canada’s third-biggest pension fund said in March that it may sell its stake in the owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs National Hockey League team and the Toronto Raptors of the National Basketball Association after receiving unsolicited expressions of interest.

The Leafs, winners of 11 Stanley Cup championships, are the most valuable NHL franchise, worth $505 million, according to Forbes magazine’s 2010 ranking of team valuations. Toronto-based Maple Leaf Sports also owns the Toronto FC soccer team, the Air Canada Centre arena and the Toronto Marlies American Hockey League team.

Providence Interest

Providence Equity Partners LLC, the Rhode Island-based private equity fund, was considering a bid for Maple Leaf Sports, a person familiar with its plans said Nov. 16.

Teachers’ Chief Executive Officer Jim Leech said in a May 10 interview that his fund may keep Maple Leaf Sports “if the number isn’t there.”

“Last year a number of people whispered interesting numbers in our ear and so we decided to put a process in place and we’ll see if those whispers turn into reality,” Leech said. “If they don’t, it’s business as usual.”

Ontario Teachers’ has C$107.5 billion ($103 billion) in assets and is responsible for investing and managing pensions for about 295,000 active and retired teachers in Canada’s most populous province.

Deborah Allan, a spokeswoman for the Toronto-based pension fund, declined to comment on the decision to end the sale process.

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