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TheStreet Open House

Rogers and Bell: Running the Toronto Maple Leafs Like a Business (Update 1)

Stocks in this article: RCIBCEAAPLNWSA

Updated from 7:58 a.m. Jan. 11, 2013 with Brian Burke's reaction to firing.

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Shortly after the National Hockey League lockout ended, the league's most valuable franchise fired its President and General Manager. The Toronto Maple Leafs ousted Brian Burke.

Shock over "the timing" of the decision colored consensus across the hockey media, even in Canada. As a Leafs fan, who likes Burke, I was hardly surprised. With Rogers Communications (RCI) and BCE (BCE) (formerly Bell Canada) now in charge of the club, the move, while not expected, certainly didn't come out of nowhere.

Toronto Star sports columnist Damien Cox got it (pretty much) right ( read the column at The Star's Web site):

Burke got the axe Wednesday morning because Bell President and CEO George Cope, after months of campaigning for Burke's dismissal, finally wore out the Rogers suits and Leafs minority owner Larry Tanenbaum ... Cope didn't like Burke's style, his manners, his profanity, his lifestyle.

Big shocker! A corporate suit like Cope doesn't care much for a crude Irishman who, rumor has it, likes to have a drink every now and then ( cough, cough, wink, wink). Burke's a loose cannon. That's not going to fly when Rogers and Bell own 75% of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment.

Despite getting that part right, Cox showed ignorance vis-a-vis the Rogers-Bell relationship:

This is the first really big sports decision undertaken by the partnership of Bell and Rogers that now controls Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment. Not only was it done in such a way that should make Leaf fans very worried, it may also be an indication why this corporate partnership of media rivals is destined not to last.

Rivals. I love it!

Rogers and Bell are rivals like Apple (AAPL) and Amazon.com (AMZN) are mortal enemies.

Loose similarities actually exist between the two sets of partners the media likes to hysterically paint as foes. You know the deal with Apple and Amazon. They both make hardware. They both provide excellent user experiences via smart and seamless ecosystems. And they scratch each other's backs feverishly.

Apple devices dominate mobile e-commerce traffic. A significant chunk of that activity, if not a vast majority, happens in the Amazon online store. The numbers from the holiday period clearly support this contention.

Things might be even more symbiotic between Rogers and Bell. The two companies simply have to act like "rivals" to keep regulators off their tails. They both want the same thing from their joint ownership of MLSE and every other area they nearly monopolize in Canada -- mobile, cable/satellite, media -- you name it.

Leafs fans should be thrilled that Rogers and Bell control the team now. We might finally make the playoffs. Yes, "we." I'm a fan. Have been for a while. In fact, I just put a new profile picture up on Twitter ( check it out!). This one just missed the cut. Cramer didn't like it:

By firing Burke, especially when they did it, Rogers and Bell send the message, even if unintentionally, that we're running this thing like a business. If you don't win, we don't have time for your antics.

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