Various factions of the Raptors‘ ownership group held divergent opinions on how to handle the contract negotiations with team president Masai Ujiri earlier this year, according to a fascinating report from Christine Dobby and Doug Smith of The Toronto Star. Ujiri finalized a new long-term extension with the franchise in August.
Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, the company that owns the Raptors, is controlled in part by Rogers Communications (37.5%), BCE (Bell) Inc. (37.5%), and team governor Larry Tanenbaum‘s Kilmer Group (25%).
Edward Rogers – the former chair of Rogers Communications who has recently been embroiled in a public battle for control of the company with his mother and siblings – opposed the terms of the deal that Tanenbaum and Bell wanted to offer Ujiri, expressing that the compensation was too high and that general manager Bobby Webster was capable of taking over control of the team’s front office if necessary, sources tell The Toronto Star.
According to Dobby and Smith, Rogers explicitly told Ujiri he didn’t think he was worth the salary the rest of the Raptors’ ownership group wanted to offer him, prompting MLSE executives to go into “damage-control mode” and to tell Ujiri to ignore those comments.
Rogers insisted he would only agree to the deal if a dozen terms were met, including 11 relating to Ujiri’s compensation and one that would see Rogers Communications take its 37.5% stake in MLSE and combine it with the Toronto Blue Jays to create a separate company. However, because Tanenbaum holds the title of Raptors governor, he had the authority to make the final call on personnel issues without Rogers’ sign-off, which is the path he chose to complete Ujiri’s deal, according to The Star.
Rogers, who was “furious,” reached out to commissioner Adam Silver, but was told by two league officials that Tanenbaum had the right to make that decision, per Dobby and Smith.
Asked on Sunday about the negotiations, Rogers said he has the “utmost respect” for Ujiri and is happy he remains in his current role.
“Masai understands better than anyone that negotiations test both sides,” Rogers said. “The best deals involve compromise and leave all parties feeling like winners.”
According to Dobby and Smith, Ujiri’s contract with the Raptors includes a $15MM annual salary, with the ability to earn more in incentive pay if the value of the franchise continues to increase. Ujiri also received the new title of vice chairman to go along with his president title.
A league source tells The Toronto Star that another NBA team offered Ujiri a 3% ownership stake, with a salary higher than the $15MM per year he received from the Raptors. Soccer teams in the English Premier League also expressed interest in Ujiri, per Dobby and Smith.