Raptors CEO Tim Leiweke To Step Down

THURSDAY, 10:01am: Leiweke will leave the company on June 30, 2015 or when a replacement is found, whichever is sooner, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment announced today, as Mark Zwolinski of The Toronto Star chronicles. The news is surprising after Leiweke denied that he would resign in the immediate wake of Friedman’s report, and Leiweke repeated that denial Wednesday before today’s about-face, Zwolinski writes.

“Under Tim’s leadership, MLSE has made a number of key moves to strengthen our organization on the path to championship success,” Tanenbaum said in the statement announcing Leiweke’s impending departure. “We look forward to working closely with Tim to build on this foundation and further accelerate our momentum as we seek a new leader for MLSE.”

The statement also quoted Leiweke, who cited a desire to “transition from sports and entertainment executive to entrepreneur,” as Mike Zeisberger of the Toronto Sun notes.

TUESDAY, 12:55pm: Leiweke intends to leave the company at the end of his two-year non-compete agreement with AEG, his former employer, a source tells Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun (Twitter link). Leiweke left AEG last spring before taking the job that has him in charge of the Raptors.

12:39pm: Leiweke has quickly issued a denial, telling Cathal Kelly of The Globe and Mail that, It’s not true. 100% not true. I’m fully committed to the season at hand” (Twitter link).

12:10pm: Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment CEO Tim Leiweke, who oversees the Raptors, is set to leave the company soon, reports Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet (Twitter link). Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun suggests Leiweke has harbored dreams of running an National Football League team (Twitter link), but it remains unclear why he would depart his job in charge of the Raptors and the National Hockey League’s Toronto Maple Leafs.

Leiweke joined the company a little more than a year ago, though the hopes of landing an NFL franchise have faded since then. MLSE was part of a bidding group that made a play for the Buffalo Bills, but it appears the group’s efforts to buy the team and move it to Toronto will come up short. MLSE chairman Larry Tanenbaum was more directly involved in that process, but it stands to reason that Leiweke might have been part of the effort if he indeed envisions running a football team in the near future.

The Raptors have undergone significant changes during Leiweke’s brief tenure so far, and while the change from Bryan Colangelo to Masai Ujiri as GM happened before Leiweke officially took office, it appeared as though he had influence on those decisions. Ujiri traded Rudy Gay less than two months into last season, sparking a turnaround that saw the team grab the third seed in the Eastern Conference. Toronto came close to trading Kyle Lowry not long after the Gay deal, but the point guard played a key role in the team’s surprising season and before the season was over, Leiweke publicly vowed to re-sign Lowry this summer. The Raptors did so, inking Lowry to a four-year, $48MM deal.

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