Tim Leiweke is the incoming President and CEO of Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment (MLSE), and will officially take over the role at the beginning of June. However, Leiweke wasted no time planting his flag on the organization after dismissing Bryan Colangelo as GM of the Toronto Raptors yesterday.
Leiweke is instituting a rebranding strategy for the Raptors by positioning the team as Canada’s face in the NBA, and expanding the fanbase beyond the local Toronto market. He drew parallels with the Toronto Blue Jays, one of two professional sports teams not owned by MLSE – the other team being the Toronto Rock – as an organization that is followed and respected across all of Canada.
“It’s not the same with the Raptors, and I get that. We are Toronto’s team, but I think we have to learn to be Canada’s team.”
The Raptors will play their 20th season as a part of the NBA in 2016, and Leiweke announced that the organization is aggressively bidding for the rights to that season’s all-star game as the “centrepiece” of the rebranding strategy for the Raptors. Sportsbetting sites are making their own betting predictions on the host location for the all-star game. Leiweke acknowledged the odds may be against the Raptors, but the organization is determined nonetheless.
“The change is going to be that Toronto’s not bidding on the 2016 all-star game. Canada is. And that’s where we’ll begin the change.”
In the short term, Leiweke decided that one of the brand rebuilding strategies was to remove Colangelo from his position as GM of the Raptors. The decision was due in part to the team missing the playoffs for the fifth consecutive year, all of which occurred under Colangelo’s watchful eye. The future of head coach Dwane Casey will be left to the new Raptors GM.
However, Colangelo will remain President of the Raptors organization, but Leiweke stressed that a new GM will make the team’s final decisions in the future. The new GM will report directly to Leiweke, who cautioned Colangelo that he must accept the new corporate structure with the Raptors.
“He will be involved in a lot of things that will become a priority for the Raptors going forward.”
MLSE stated that six potential candidates are under consideration to replace Colangelo as GM.