Tim Leiweke, who helped improve Los Angeles’ sporting fortunes and revive the city’s once-woebegone downtown during his 17-year leadership of sports and entertainment giant AEG, on Friday was named president and chief executive of Toronto-based Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment.
Leiweke, who left AEG on March 14 by what he said was “mutual agreement,” will move to Canada and will assume his new role in late June. MLSE’s key properties include the NHL’s iconic Maple Leafs, the perennially underachieving NBA Raptors and FC Toronto of Major League Soccer.
MLSE also owns the Air Canada Centre, home to the Maple Leafs and Raptors; the Maple Leafs’ American Hockey League affiliate, the Toronto Marlies; and three television networks. MLSE, which is nearly 80% owned by Rogers Communications and Bell Canada, also has a stake in a sports, residential and retail complex near the Air Canada Centre.
“I’m very excited because it’s about a platform that’s even larger than what we started with at AEG,” Leiweke told the Los Angeles Times.
“They have hockey where it’s a religion, the NBA, MLS, the Marlies, AHL, and they own buildings and entertainment districts and have distribution channels, so it’s really a unique platform. And again, it’s far greater than what we started with at AEG and one that I’m enthused by because of the marketplace. It’s a very dynamic, exciting, vibrant marketplace.”
Leiweke said his duties will be similar to those he had at AEG, where he was a passionate and sometimes hands-on overseer of the MLS Galaxy and the Kings. He was the face of the company in negotiating deals with city officials and politicians.
“We’re not going to focus on growth outside of our core assets,” he said of MLSE. “They want to win, and so that’s priority No. 1: build a long-term contender in hockey, basketball and soccer. And they have ambitions, and so we will grow, and that is a priority.”
The Kings and Galaxy won their respective league titles last season, and the teams visited the White House together in late March. However, by then Leiweke had left AEG. His departure coincided with an announcement by owner Phil Anschutz that a planned sale of the company had been terminated.
Leiweke said it was a deliberate decision to put a long distance between his former job and his new one.
“I don’t want to do anything that harms [AEG]. I feel strongly about the people that are here. I hired them all,” he said. “I feel very strongly about the success of the hockey team and the soccer team, and I would do nothing to ultimately put them in a difficult situation. So my decision with Toronto was made in part because I don’t mind competing for the Stanley Cup, but I don’t want to be competing in L.A.”
The Maple Leafs qualified for the playoffs this season for the first time since 2004. The Raptors missed the NBA playoffs for the fifth straight season, and FC Toronto has never made the MLS playoffs.
“It’s a challenge and it’s one I’m excited about, and I couldn’t be more thrilled about the city,” Leiweke said. “It’s a beautiful and vibrant place to be and to work and to live.”