Rogers steps to the plate in takeover of Blue Jays

Godfrey appointed prez, CEO of Toronto team

TORONTO — Toronto-based cabler Rogers Communications is going ahead with its anticipated takeover of the Toronto Blue Jays for $112 million.

Subject to the approval of Major League Baseball and Canadian broadcast regulators, Rogers has inked a deal to purchase 80% of the Blue Jays from the Belgian beer maker Interbrew in a half-cash, half-stock deal. Canuck beer maker Labatt (an Interbrew subsidiary) will retain its 20% stake in the cash-strapped baseball club.

In addition, Rogers has appointed Paul Godfrey president and CEO of the Blue Jays. Godfrey is a high-profile Canuck media figure, most recently as the head of Sun Media, a major newspaper chain in Canada.

As reported (Daily Variety, Aug. 18), control of the Toronto Blue Jays is a strategic coup for Rogers because it furthers Rogers’ vertical integration goals. In a press conference in Toronto on Friday, Ted Rogers held up a cellular phone and promised that Jays fans will eventually be able to watch the team on the phone’s screen. (In addition to its cable interests, Rogers owns a number of radio stations, a high-speed Internet and cellular phone service.)

Rogers’ next move would be to gain control of a national sports network such as CTV Sportsnet (of which Rogers already holds 30%) on which to show the Jays’ games. Though the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission’s current policy currently forbids cable companies from owning specialty channels, Rogers has been lobbying to change that.

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