Mar 6, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment mascots Toronto Marlies Duke (left) and Toronto Maple Leafs Carlton (center) and Toronto Raptors Stripes (right) pose during the Players Gala at Real Sports Bar & Grill. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Talk about a post I didn’t want to write – the departure of Tim Leieweke from his positionas Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment [MLSE] President was announced Thursday night. There’s no shortage of stories about this shocking development, so I’ll refer you to the original story-breaker, Elliotte Friedman, here.
The conventional wisdom holds that Leiweke wouldn’t commit to sticking around beyond mid-summer 2015, so the Board of Directors decided it needed him to move on. While that sort of thinking may sound reasonable in a case study at Harvard Business School, it’s misguided. A lot of the dialogue from informed commentators has focussed on “managing up” as Leiweke’s toughest task. That also feels wrong to me. What kind of egomanical Board runs that place in such a manner that the CEO’s most onerous activity is keeping them happy? From the point of view of Toronto Raptors fans, we’ve been thrilled with Leiweke, and I suspect the other teams’ fans feel the same way. And what did Bell and Rogers have to say when Leiweke formalized his announcement? “No comment”(!) Two communications companies have No Comment? Did they consider the optics of going quiet? Let me help them here – you guys should be ashamed of yourselves.
Anyway, Leiweke is now as lame a duck as exists on planet Earth. What’s his motivation to go to the office tomorrow? He’s out the door as soon as they find a replacement, which won’t be an easy task. MLSE has probably already struck a search committee, but qualified candidates are going to be gun-shy about the gig. All the top-rank sports executives are already employed. If approached, each will ask himself: “These MLSE guys had the best man in the business, and ran him out of town. If Leiweke wasn’t good enough, what chance have I got ?”
And now, Rapture Nation, we come to the crux of the matter. Is Toronto Raptors GM Masai Ujiri a candidate for the biggest job in Canadian sports, and one of the biggest in North America? In my view, he is indeed – which is very worrisome. We need Masai zeroing in on the Raptors, not corporate balance sheets, Board presentations, and the rest of the “busy-ness” of the modern executive. But he has to be thinking about his future. If Masai wants Leiweke’s job, and doesn’t get it, you couldn’t blame him for resigning his GM post. Of course, he’ll remember how he got his own job. Leiweke came to town and gassed Colangelo, then recruited Masai. Could history repeat itself?
This post is done, but this topic isn’t. Comments welcome.