SIMMONS: How a Toronto lawyer wound up as part owner of Seattle Kraken
On a telephone call with Tod Leiweke not that long ago, Tod passed the phone to his brother and said: “Tim wants to say hello.”
Tim Leiweke, you probably remember, used to be the CEO of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment. He hired Masai Ujiri for the Raptors. He changed Toronto FC from loser to winner. He hired Brendan Shanahan to run the Leafs. And then he left to pursue his own business interests, unwilling to play the corporate game with MLSE.
In doing so, Leiweke wound up being more than involved in the building of the new home of the Seattle Kraken, the NHL team that employs his brother, Tod, as CEO.
Toronto lawyer Peter Brauti was on the other end of the phone that day with the Leiwekes, having known Tim from his involvement with MLSE and known Tod from doing just about everything you can do at the executive level of professional sport.
Brauti had heard the Leiweke brothers were involved with the eventual ownership of the then-unnamed Seattle expansion franchise when he asked a rather forward question. That’s what criminal lawyers do sometimes. Brauti asked Leiweke directly: “If there’s any room in ownership, I would love to get involved.”
He thought he was being forward in his approach.
Tim Leiweke, who majors in being forward, said “Can you fly to New York on Wednesday?”
“I literally went down, met with the majority owner David Bonderman, and he interviewed me about who I am and what I do and why I might be interested in being involved,” said Brauti.
“Everything happened quickly. Right after that, I got an email from David Bonderman saying ‘we’re comfortable with you.’
“I wrote back saying ‘what does that mean?’
“He wrote back, ‘it means you’re in.’”
This is how a highly regarded Toronto lawyer and well-known businessman, maybe best known for his ability to stickhandle around a courtroom in tight circumstances, became a part-owner of the incoming Seattle NHL franchise. This doesn’t happen often. It wasn’t cheap. The league mandates that the minimum buy-in for any part-owner of any club is $5 million US.