Richard Peddie is to be replaced as president and chief executive officer of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment by late spring or early summer.
According a source close to MLSE, the owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto Raptors, the organization has a succession plan in place but it's expected Peddie will exit gracefully.
There are no comparisons for MLSE's growth and balance sheet in Canada and few if any worldwide in the sports and entertainment industry. Under Peddie's stewardship these past 14 years, the company's value has grown to about $2-billion, with annual revenues approaching $500-million. It boasts financially vibrant franchises operating in the NHL, NBA and Major League Soccer, a privately funded arena, three television channels and the recently opened Maple Leaf Square - a collection of condominiums, office towers, a hotel and a Las Vegas-styled sports bar.
In an interview Wednesday, Peddie acknowledged that his days running MLSE are numbered but expects the timing of his departure to be a mutual decision.
"I'm going to be 64 in January; it doesn't take much to figure out that at some point I'm going to retire," he said. "The word replace is kind of an ominous word … At some point Richard Peddie will retire. But it will be worked out in an orderly manner with our board [of directors]"
While business is strong, competitive success has been elusive for the sports franchises. Cumulatively, the NHL's Maple Leafs, NBA's Raptors and MLS entry Toronto FC have missed 10 successive opportunities to make the playoffs.
Peddie has been the lightening rod for criticism as the majority-owning Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan has chosen to remain largely faceless, and Larry Tanenbaum, the largest individual shareholder and the MLSE chairman, has kept a low profile of late.
Speaking from his 15th-floor office in the tower adjacent to the Air Canada Centre, Peddie joked that "reports of his demise have been greatly exaggerated."
"[Talk of me leaving]ramps up every once in a while, usually when the teams aren't playing well and, God, we're having a lot of that right now, it could be that," he said of the speculation. "They [MLSE]want to be sure who the successor is. That's a process and at some point we'll come and say I'm being replaced, but it's not now, it's not immediate."
Peddie wouldn't comment when asked if a consulting group had been hired or a search committee struck, but said he expects to have a role in finding his successor.
"I won't have the final say, but they value my perspective," he said. "It's the only job in North America with multiple teams and the business side reporting to the CEO. We have four teams [including the Marlies of the American Hockey League] we have three television networks, Maple Leaf Square - it's very complex.
"I will be involved given the complexity of it, to educate people on the parameters and criteria. I'll be a facilitator. I get along great with these guys and I'll give my point of view, but it's ultimately their call."
Peddie emphasized that the time of his departure is not imminent and won't be unscheduled. "I have complete comfort I'm not getting fired," he said. "Complete comfort."