Edward Rogers reportedly fought plans to keep Masai Ujiri as head of the Toronto Raptors this summer, according to a new scoop by the Toronto Star. Rogers, the former chairman of Rogers Communications and current chairman of the Rogers Control Trust, argued that Ujiri was not worth the amount offered to him—$15 million per year and an incentive structure tied to a future increase in value of the Raptors—and he was convinced that current Raptors general manager Bobby Webster could manage the team by himself. Rogers Communications is a publicly traded company that owns a share of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd. (MLSE), which owns the Raptors.
Fortunately for Raptors fans, Ujiri did ultimately stay with the team he has been running since 2013, signing a long-term contract this summer as vice-chairman and president of the Raptors. But new information has surfaced that suggests that Ujiri almost took a year off from running the Raptors due to how upset he was with the way Rogers handled the negotiations this summer.
After weeks of negotiations that began in mid-July, both MLSE chair Larry Tanenbaum and rival telecom giant Bell Media—two pieces of the pie that makes up Raptors’ owner MLSE—were in agreement on a deal with Ujiri, but Rogers, who has the final stake in MLSE, tried to thwart the negotiations after growing disenchanted with Ujri. The conflict came to a head when the two met at Rogers’ Lake Rosseau cottage, where Rogers said that Ujiri was “arrogant,” that he arrived with “bodyguards,” and that he failed to share his vision for the team.
However, an NBA source said Ujiri was caught off guard by that interpretation of the meeting, which he thought had been amicable. The source also disputed that Ujiri brought bodyguards, saying Ujiri came with his long-time driver as well as the videographer for a charitable project.
Ujiri reportedly felt so angry and disrespected by Rogers—who called Ujiri after the meeting and told him he wasn’t worth what he was being paid—that he considered taking a year off as president of the Raptors. It’s no wonder given that Ujiri had already brought the Raptors a championship and added $500 million in value to the team since his arrival in 2013, with Forbes reporting that the Raptors are currently worth $2.15 billion USD, the 10th highest valued franchise in the entire NBA and the highest valued sports franchise in Canada.
Plus, other sports franchises from around the world were also chasing Ujiri, with one NBA team reportedly offering him a three percent ownership stake along with a salary that eclipsed the $15 million per year deal he ultimately struck with MLSE. Teams in soccer’s top domestic league, the English Premier League, also made a run at Ujiri, but to no avail.
Additionally, Rogers wanted Bell and Tanenbaum to agree to a complex plan that would see Rogers Communications take its 37.5 percent stake in MLSE (which owns the Raptors, Toronto Maple Leafs, Argos, Toronto FC, and more) and combine it with the Rogers’ owned Toronto Blue Jays to create a separate company. This would have involved signing off on a complex set of team valuations and issues around control and broadcast rights in an attempt to extract an extraordinary amount of benefit for his own company, Rogers Communications, which is currently in turmoil.
Bell and Tanenbaum would not agree, so Rogers went over everybody’s head and pleaded his case with NBA commissioner Adam Silver and the league’s general counsel Rick Buchanan, who confirmed that Tanenbaum—who is governor of the Raptors, a position that gives him ultimate power to make decisions on personnel issues at the team—had the right to make a call on the contract.
As we know, Tanenbaum ultimately decided to overrule Rogers and sign Ujiri.