Leafs ownership change could spell the end of Brendan Shanahan's reign

Ryan Smitheram
April 5, 2024  (9:10)

Leafs President Brendan Shanahan speaks with the Toronto media
Photo credit: NHL - Toronto Maple Leafs

The Toronto Maple Leafs ownership structure is about to see a seismic shift with Bell and Rogers looking to take full control. As a result, Brendan Shanahan's run as President of the Leafs may be at risk.

In early January, MLSE announced that the organization would welcome a new President and CEO in April. Former Bell and Rogers executive Keith Pelley began his new role earlier this week in what is expected to be a lengthy overhaul by the higher-ups at MLSE.
Formed in 1998, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment began with just the Leafs and Toronto Raptors, but has become a money-making machine that now also includes the Toronto Argonauts, Toronto FC, Toronto Marlies, BMO Field and Scotiabank Arena. The entity as a whole is the largest in Canada, and according to Forbes, is the 10th most valuable sports organization in the world.
Bell and Rogers collectively own 75% of MLSE after purchasing majority ownership in 2011 from the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan with long-time owner and face of ownership Larry Tanenbaum owning 20% after selling 5% o his stake to OMERs pension last year for $400M. According to Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman and Michael Grange, however, a clause in that deal allows Bell and Rogers to buy out Tanenbaum's remaining percentage until July 2026 - something that they indicated is likely to happen.

What does the change in ownership and addition of Pelley mean for the "Shanaplan?"

With a massive shift in ownership likely on the horizon, and the addition of Pelley, whom Leafs President and Alternate Govenor Brendan Shanahan will directly report to, Shanahan's future with the Leafs is murky at best. As Friedman and Grange have reported, Tanenbaum has often acted as a buffer and mediator between Bell and Rogers and a security blanket of sorts to Shanahan. In 2019, Shanahan signed a six-year contract worth between $25 million to $30 million, but as he enters the final year of that deal, with just one playoff series victory, he and the "Shanaplan" may be running out of time.
At the time of Kyle Dubas' shocking departure from the Leafs, The Athletic reported that Dubas and Shanahan were at odds as the latter reportedly blocked a handful of trades over Dubas' tenure. Although current GM Brad Treliving appears to have a longer leash than Dubas, Shanahan's leash has gotten shorter now that he will have to report directly to Pelley. Should the Leafs fail to go on a deep playoff run this season, or next, as it's doubtful MLSE would want to pay him to sit at home the way they did when the Leafs fired Mike Babcock, Shanahan's tenure with the Leafs could be coming to an end sooner than later.
With the addition of Pelley, who was previously the CEO of golf's European Tour, Shanahan will now have a buffer between him and the board of MLSE. Shanahan has been reporting directly to the MLSE board since previous CEO Tim Leiweke departed in 2015, which has reportedly caused the Leafs to miss out on acquiring certain players as the board took their time to deliberate over the moves.
There's a chance that Pelley having long-standing relationships with Bell and Rogers may help Shanahan and Treliving to be more aggressive without having to worry about a major backlash. With the season winding down and playoffs beginning in a couple of weeks, we won't see any impact from Pelley until after the Leafs' upcoming playoff run ends. What impact that will be is unknown as he is less than a week into his new role, but we will certainly know more as we approach the draft and free agency.
5 AVRIL   |   1205 ANSWERS
Leafs ownership change could spell the end of Brendan Shanahan's reign

Will Brendan Shanahan have his contract renewed at the end of next season?

Yes, he'll be brought back13311 %
No, not unless the Leafs have playoff success57848 %
It might be time for a change either way49441 %
Latest 10 stories