It’s no secret that recently exited AEG heavyweight Tim Leiweke is a hockey guy. He always was the LA Kings’ biggest supporter within the company that owns the Stanley Cup champs. But with today’s news that the exec is headed to Toronto to run Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, he might be walking into serious culture shock. The man who for more than a decade led AEG — the behemoth that turned the ho-hum area around LA’s Convention Center into a world-class entertainment and sports hotbed — is in for more media and fan scrutiny that he ever imagined.
Leiweke, whose abrupt and unceremonious exit from AEG last month was billed as “by mutual agreement,” will take over one of Canadian sports’ more high-profile jobs. MLSE not only runs the Toronto Maple Leafs — the wildly popular NHL franchise that’s in the playoffs this year for the first time in nearly a decade — it operates the city’s Air Canada Centre, closely watched minor-league franchise the Toronto Marlies and three TV networks. The company, four-fifths owned by northern giant Rogers Communications and Bell Canada, also has a hand in an LA Live-like mixed-use complex that surrounds the arena.
The new president and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment won’t assume his gig until late June, when the hockey-mad city will have settled in for a summer with the shoulda-been contenders Toronto Blue Jays. But the relative free pass he got from the Lakers-and-Dodgers-centric LA media and fans will be a distant memory by the time the air gets colder. It might not be New York or Philly up there sports media-wise, but it’s the Great White Northern equivalent.