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Larry Tanenbaum

(1946 - )

Lawrence “Larry” Tanenbaum is a Canadian businessman who is chairman of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (MLSE). He owns a 13% stake in MLSE through his holding company Kilmer Sports Inc.

He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics from Cornell University in 1968.

When the elder Tanenbaum fell into a coma, never regaining consciousness and eventually passing away, there was a bitter battle among his children and wife over the family fortune. This pitted Larry and his mother against eldest brother Joey and the rest of the children. During this time, family members avoided speaking to each other. The estate dwindled to half of its former value before the two sides reached a settlement. Larry gained control of the family’s construction business, since renamed Kilmer Van Nostrand Co. Limited (KVN), where he currently serves as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer.

Kilmer’s subsidiary The Warren Paving & Materials Group Limited was Canada’s largest asphalt paving company. On December 2000, Warren was merged into Lafarge North America, making Kilmer a major shareholder in the new company. Tanenbaum became a director on the board of Lafarge North America and chaired its Finance Committee until the 2006 buyout by France-based Lafarge SA.

He is married with two daughters and one son, Kenneth. He makes his residence in the wealthy Forest Hill area of Toronto. He is currently Vice-Chairman on the Board of Directors of Mount Sinai Hospital. A wing at that facility bears his name as a result of his substantial donation, which he made in gratitude after their staff treated his mother.

In the early 1990s, he attempted unsuccessfully to attract an NBA team to Toronto. However, this did lay the groundwork for the city being awarded an expansion franchise in 1993, the Toronto Raptors.

Besides the Raptors, Tanenbaum also acquired an interest in Maple Leaf Gardens Ltd., the parent of the Toronto Maple Leafs. With MLG’s purchase of the Raptors and Air Canada Centre in February 1998, Tanenbaum fulfilled his goal of NBA and NHL ownership in Toronto under the same group, with MLG being renamed to Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (MLSE). This deal also allowed both teams to share the ACC rather than building two separate venues.

Tanenbaum hired Ken Dryden to become the president of the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1997. Pat Quinn became head coach in 1998. Dryden and Quinn reportedly had a frosty relationship. A few months after joining the Leafs, Quinn took on the General Manager position, reportedly to preempt Dryden from hiring his preferred GM which was former Habs teammate Bob Gainey.

Steve Stavro, the owner of MLG, became chairman and majority owner of MLSE, of which Tanenbaum was a minority partner. However, Stavro and Tanenbaum were said to have a poor relationship, as Tanenbaum disputed a report that claimed that Stavro saw him as a favored son. A Globe and Mail Report on Business magazine article also alleged that Stavro would worry about minute details such as hot dogs. The owners’ lounge at the Air Canada Centre was modeled in a Scottish theme with dark wood panels while Stavro was chairman; his successor Tanenbaum had the room remodeled to a white modernistic style with some insiders saying that the change was made because the old room reminded him too much of Stavro.

Tanenbaum became non-executive chairman of MLSE in 2003. Stavro had stepped down as part of a restructuring plan that also saw him sell his majority stake to CTVglobemedia. Under the new ownership structure the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan (OTPP) became the majority shareholder based on equity. Jim Leech, who at the time was Senior Vice President of Private Equity at OTPP (also known as the Teachers’ Merchant Bank), had orchestrated the deal after the closure of Stavro’s Knob Hill Farms supermarket chain, which had caused rumors that the financial status of MLSE could be affected. Quinn continued as head coach but was succeeded as General Manager by John Ferguson, Jr. Dryden’s position was abolished, in favor of having both the Leafs and Raptors managers reporting directly to MLSE President and CEO Richard Peddie. Dryden was shuffled to the less important role of vice-chairman and given a spot on MLSE’s board of directors, which was described by commentators as “sitting outside the loop” as he did not report directly to Leafs ownership. He stayed on until 2004 when he resigned to enter politics.

Tanenbaum took an active interest in the Leafs and Raptors, attending as many home games as possible. He had a close friendship with Raptors star Vince Carter. On the morning of the day of Game 7 of the 2001 Eastern Conference Semifinals (Raptors vs Philadelphia 76ers), Sunday, May 20, Tanenbaum used his private jet to fly Carter to his UNC graduation. In that game, Carter missed a game-winning shot with 2.0 seconds remaining and shot just 6 of 18 from the field. In 2004, Tanenbaum also attended Carter’s wedding to Ellen Rucker in Florida. However, the relationship between Tanenbaum and Carter began to sour when choosing a successor for Glen Grunwald, who was recently fired as General Manager. While Carter had preferred Julius Erving as General Manager instead, the Raptors chose Rob Babcock instead as GM. (Erving has never held any coaching or managerial position with an NBA team.) A disgruntled Carter was traded away late that year.

According to a 2004 Globe and Mail Report on Business magazine article, Tanenbaum was one of the few owners on the NHL Board of Governors who was in favour of ending the 2004-05 NHL lockout as soon as possible, when the NHL Players Association offered a 24% salary rollback, rather than hold out as long as possible to get the players’ union to accept a hard salary cap. Tanenbaum reported that other owners shouted him down at the meetings. The Leafs, perennially one of the NHL’s top three richest teams, had contributed much to Toronto’s economy, particularly restaurants and bars in the downtown area.

During the power struggle between Leafs GM John Ferguson, Jr. and head coach Pat Quinn after the 2006 NHL season in which the team narrowly missed the playoffs, Richard Peddie backed Ferguson while Kenneth Thomson, the owner of CTVglobemedia, supported Quinn. However, Thomson’s firm was only a minority partner in MLSE at the time. With Stavro no longer in control Quinn lacked the power and autonomy he had under the previous ownership. As a result, Quinn was dismissed and replaced by Paul Maurice. With the Leafs near the bottom of the league, Ferguson was fired as GM in January 2008 and replaced on an interim basis by Cliff Fletcher.

Sources: Wikipedia