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Rogers Invests in Maple Leaf Sports

Canadian multichannel provider Rogers Communications and Bell Canada are jointly acquiring a net 75 percent stake in Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (MLSE) from the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan.

MLSE owns and operates the Air Canada Centre, the NHL's Toronto Maple Leafs, the NBA's Toronto Raptors, MLS's Toronto FC and the AHL's Toronto Marlies, along with three television networks: Leafs TV, NBA TV Canada, and GOL TV Canada.

The investment is part of Rogers' strategy of expanding the delivery of highly sought-after sports content across its broadband, wireless networks and other media assets, while strengthening the value of its sports brand, Sportsnet.

"MLSE is truly a world-class organization with some of the most iconic brands and popular sports teams across North America," noted Nadir Mohamed, president and CEO of Rogers in a statement. "We're excited to partner with MLSE to create highly interactive and engaging experiences for hockey, basketball and soccer fans, creating the perfect marriage of content and distribution. This investment fits squarely into our strategy of securing premium content and making it accessible to Canadians when, where and how they want it."

Rogers already owns the Toronto Blue Jays baseball team, the Rogers Centre, and the multiplatform Sportsnet brand. It has invested heavily in multiplatform delivery of sports content via its LTE wireless operations, Rogers on Demand, Rogers on Demand Online and mobile applications and has launched live streaming of sports from Toronto Maple Leaf and Toronto Blue Jay games, Rogers Cup, FIFA World Cup, NBA TV and NFL Network.

If approved by regulators, the transaction is expected to close in mid-2012. Once the transaction closes, MLSE will be jointly owned by KSI Investments (25%), Bell and BCE Master Trust Fund (37.5%), and Rogers Communications (37.5%).

Rogers and Bell have also negotiated long-term sports broadcasting rights for MLSE content for their respective television, wireless, digital and radio assets.