Majority owner of Toronto Maple Leafs, Raptors dangles For Sale sign

TORONTO – The company that owns the Toronto Maple Leafs and Raptors could be getting a new master.

The Ontario Teachers Pension Plan says it will explore the possibility of selling its 66 per cent majority stake in Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment.

The pension plan said it would make no further public comment on the matter in a terse news release issued Saturday night.

Montreal’s La Presse reported the pension fund has hired investment bank Morgan Stanley to find possible buyers. The newspaper cited anonymous sources who reportedly took part in the discussions.

The release from teachers made no mention of Morgan Stanley.

The prospect of a potential sale didn’t cause any visible reaction from Leaf brass and players during Saturday night’s game with Buffalo at the Air Canada Centre.

Top executives, including president and CEO Richard Peddie, watched from their usual seats just behind the team’s bench. None of the players seemed the least bit interested in the story.

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“That’s the business side of the game,” captain Dion Phaneuf said after Toronto’s 4-3 win. “Everything will be fine.”

The prospect of the teacher’s pension fund selling its stake seemed to be a reversal from its public position in December when it said it wasn’t “anxious” to sell its investment.

Reports surfaced in December that Rogers Communications (TSX:RCI.B) was trying to buy out teachers’ piece of the MLSE pie.

But the media giant didn’t comment on the reports and the pension plan issued a statement saying it had never received a firm offer for its stake.

Kilmer Sports, which is controlled by Toronto businessman Larry Tanenbaum, holds about 20.5 per cent of MLSE. TD Capital holds the remaining 13.5 per cent.

MLSE also owns the Toronto FC soccer franchise and the AHL’s Toronto Marlies.