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Four things we learned from the new boss of Maple Leaf Sports

Tim Leiweke runs Canada's most valuable sports business. In an interview with Report on Business magazine, the new chief executive officer of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd. reveals his views on a company that has enjoyed great financial success but has never won anything on the ice, the court or the playing field.

Read the full article: Can Tim Leiweke save the Maple Leafs?

Raina + Wilson for Report on Business

1. He doesn’t think much of the corporate culture MLSE built under previous management

“You come in and you inherit people, you inherit culture, you inherit tradition, you inherit a way of doing business that had already been set in stone, in some cases. And so now what you are doing is, instead of building things, to some extent you have to tear a few things down to rebuild them,” Mr. Leiweke told The Globe and Mail’s Grant Robertson. “You’ve got to change the thinking, the culture and the way we operate as a company day to day. This is much more difficult.”

“We cannot be afraid of winning. For too long here, we’ve been afraid of expectations, and they’ve crushed us. We’ve been afraid of winning, and it has destroyed us. Great organizations don’t back down from the challenge. I learned that with the Lakers. The Lakers are not afraid to admit that they are expected to win. We need to have that kind of culture here."


2. The new guy hates excuses – and won’t accept them as explanation for the Toronto Raptors’ poor performance

“People who say players won’t come here because they don’t like the cold weather or they don’t want to play in Canada or we don’t have ESPN—those are excuses. We’re not using those any more. And by the way, they’re not true. This is a great city. This is one of the top three or four cities in all of North America, with one of the best, if not the best, economy in North America. We will have no trouble convincing people to come here—if we win. No great player is coming here unless we can prove to them we can win, and win often.”


3. The three-way ownership structure – BCE Inc., Rogers Communications Inc. and Larry Tanenbaum – remains tricky to navigate

“With Bell and Rogers, they know where I’m headed. George [Cope, BCE’s CEO], probably more than anyone, gets exactly where I’m going, because he’s gone through this with Bell. He got rid of a lot of people, changed the culture there and changed the way they operate as a company. And by the way, I don’t bother them a lot and they don’t bother me a lot. 

“I get what they want me to do. We need to win here, and that’s what they expect me to do. I think they’ve got my back. Larry’s the same, except it’s a little personal for Larry, because he knows everybody here. He was friends with a lot of people I let go. But I think Larry, more than anybody, deserves the right to win here. And when we do win, it will be the greatest day in his life. So I keep that in mind every day when he occasionally gets mad and says, ‘You said what?’”
Tim Fraser For The Globe and Mail

4. BCE and Rogers, which own a combined 75 per cent of MLSE, are prepared to spend

“For me, the most telling moment [of the job interview] was when I went back to George and [Rogers CEO Nadir Mohamed] and said, ‘We need a player to change the fortune of this soccer team. When I walk in your offices and tell you I could get David Beckham and it’s going to cost us $40 million, are you in?’ And they told me, ‘We’re all in.’ They didn’t think about it for a second."
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