Sunday, 11 December 2011

Bell wants to own the Canadiens AND the Leafs?

So Rogers and Bell aren't happy just being in bed with each other already, now they want to engage in unnatural acts involving the Canadiens and Maple Leafs? It will happen, but it shouldn't happen.

As far as the NHL is concerned, Bell's share of the Montreal Canadiens should be easy to sell profitably on the open market, we're not talking about the New Orleans Hornets or the Phoenix Coyotes here. Mr. Bettman should keep any appearance of impropriety (at least in those instances not involving Jeremy Jacobs and Colin Campbell) to a minimum by enjoining Bell to sell their stake in the Canadiens relatively quickly.

In the wider view of the Canadian economy and consumer protection, the purchase of a sports and entertainment franchise like MLSE by the two great collusionists, er, 'competitors' of the telecommunications world is risibly indefensible. Rogers and Bell talk about how they'll compete internally for the Leafs games among their broadcasters, possibly by using already established practices by which they set prices for mobile phone plans among themselves ("You want to raise prices 7%, we want to raise prices 9%, why don't we settle on 10%?")

Two companies who are supposed to be fighting tooth and nail for customers, putatively by independently competing with each other to offer the lowest prices possible to customers, should have no opportunities to legally cooperate with each other in any area. We're not talking about disaster management here or charity, where you can put differences aside for the greater good of the nation. They are trying to purchase MLSE to obtain valuable content for their telecom empires and get much much richer in the process. They are also trying to legitimize their de facto oligopoly in the eyes of Canadian society.

The Canadian Competition Bureau, if it has any usefulness, should put the kibosh on this one immediately. While some might argue that it's only sports, and therefore no big deal, in fact that in my mind makes it an even easier call to forbid this merger. This isn't about being able to resist international competition or the survival of a company or saving jobs, as merger pirates always claim. This is about acquiring a cash cow and locking out competition, with no national interests threatened if the deal doesn't happen. The Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan simply can continue owning their stake until a better deal comes along.

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