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Huh? Shapiro Says He Doesn’t Think The Blue Jays Are Being Sold, Plus Movement On Stadium Naming Rights!

Earlier this month Blue Jays fans were set aback by a report from Natalie Wong of Bloomberg, in which it was reported rather unambiguously reported that the Blue Jays’ parent company, Rogers Communications, is considering selling the team.

The Toronto-based telecommunications giant is considering selling the Major League Baseball team and the Cogeco stakes though no deal is imminent, Chief Financial Officer Tony Staffieri said at the UBS Global Media and Communications conference in New York Tuesday.

. . .

Rogers has said before that it’s exploring ways to get more value from its portfolio of assets, including the Blue Jays, though Staffieri’s comments were more specific. Rogers still wants rights to sports programming but doesn’t have to own a team to have that, he said, pointing to the company’s 12-year deal with the National Hockey League.

“Don’t expect any type of expansion on the media side other than continuing to monetize the sports assets that we have,” he said.

I mean… there’s not really a way to read that any differently than that Rogers is “considering selling” the club. And yet Mark Shapiro, presumably just trying to allay fears among the fans about an imminent sale impacting the club’s day-to-day business, seems to have found one!

For those of you not inclined to press play, here’s the quote in full:

It creates a distraction. I guess what I’d say is, being around Edward Rogers, the family behind the company, it’s a legacy that he’s extremely proud of, that he cares deeply about, and it’s hard for me to imagine that ever happening. That being said, I’m not the owner, I don’t control that, and I think that I get back to focusing on what I can control, which is running the team day to day. I’ve kind of been assured by them that’s not something they’re considering. What it does speak to is the fact that, when you’re a publicly held company a major league baseball team just doesn’t naturally fit in your portfolio of assets. It doesn’t work the same way from a quarterly reporting cycle, from…– so that there’s always going to be some inherent tension from how that fits for a CFO or a CEO.

. . .

First of all, I don’t think the team’s going to be sold. And secondly, I can assure you, there is zero impact from that rumour on anything we’re doing operationally right now.

Now, if the team were being sold to an entity like MLSE, which today bought the CFL’s Argonauts, and now owns all the major sports properties in the city, except for the Jays, maybe all of this would make sense. Edward Rogers would still have a stake, the club’s TV rights would still lie with Rogers and their co-owners at Bell, and the financial reporting rules are quite a bit different than under the current structure (explained somewhat here). And, in a way, Shapiro could be at least close to technically correct about the team not really being sold — not in the traditional sense, at least. (Selling to Edward himself checks many of the same boxes.)

Perhaps that’s what “kind of” assured means? (People who, unlike me, actually have a clue about business might have other ways to see this all, too, I’m sure.)

I don’t know. Some clearer messaging on th is would have been, y’know, nice. But that might be on Staffieri more than Shapiro — who might be out here trying to put out a small fire that’s been created by the CFO. But, of course, that’s just speculation on my part — and, as usual, is probably being too kind to the Jays’ front office.

There is a good story out there regarding the Jays and money tonight, though. Bob Elliott of the Canadian Baseball Network is reporting that the club seems to be moving closer to a naming rights deal — with either TD Bank or RBC.

There is a six-man governance committee trying to decide on which is the better offer Mark Ditmar, vice-president of Blue Jays corporate partnerships, brings to the table.

The committee consists of Edward Rogers, recently named chair of the board at Rogers Communications and chairman of the Blue Jays; his good friend Roger Rai, a Rogers consultant; Tony Staffieri, chief financial officer; Joe Natale. President & CEO at Rogers Communications; Andrew Miller, Blue Jays executive vice president of business operations, and Mark Shapiro.

Elliott adds that Shapiro’s father, longtime player agent Ron Shapiro, has been part of the process as well — CRONYISM! — and that selling the naming rights will force the club to have to pay taxes on the money they earn — though with MLSE having signed a 20-year, $800 million deal for the naming rights on the Air Canada Centre, it seems like a deal of their own ought to be well worth it.

I’m not sure if it’s just made-up flash for the title or not, but in the title of Elliott’s piece he suggests the names TD Dome or RBC Centre, which… I think I know which one of those literally every single Jays fan will want to see them go with. (Though TD SkyDome would obviously be even better.)

Hey, perhaps it’s the “fans” of the team making these bids from TD or RBC that Shapiro is thinking of in his refusal to pull the trigger on a rebuild. HEYO!