Edward Rogers actively fought plans to keep Masai Ujiri…

Edward Rogers actively fought plans to keep Masai Ujiri as head of the Toronto Raptors this summer — saying that he was not worth the amount offered — and then tried to extract an extraordinary benefit for his own company, the Star has learned.

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There are parallels between the situation, which was confirmed to the Star by three sources with knowledge of the events, and what is playing out now at his family-controlled company. Telecommunications giant Rogers Communications has been plunged into chaos after Edward’s failed attempt to unseat the CEO, his subsequent removal as chair of the board last week, and his disputed claim that he has established a new board of directors, which re-elected him as chair on Sunday evening.
Edward Rogers said Sunday that he has the “utmost respect for Masai Ujiri,” citing his leadership, track record in scouting and building a roster, and his global citizenship. “Above all, I respect the man,” Rogers said. “Masai built an NBA Champion and I have every confidence in him and his team to do so again.”
Ujiri left the meeting feeling positive but Rogers told Tanenbaum it was one of the worst meetings he had ever had, according to MLSE sources. Rogers said the Raptors president was arrogant, according to sources, arriving with bodyguards, and that he failed to share his vision for the team.
The NBA source said Ujiri was caught off guard by that interpretation of the meeting, which he said had been amicable. The source also disputed that Ujiri brought bodyguards, saying the Raptors head had gone to Muskoka with his long-time driver so he could work in the car during the drive, as well as the videographer for a charitable project, who was tagging along as they were heading back to the airport after.
Example: During the Las Vegas summer league, word circulated that Lore and Rodriguez would have loved to have made a run at Toronto's Masai Ujiri to lead Minnesota's front office. Ujiri recently signed a lucrative contract extension to stay with the Raptors — and the Wolves realistically had no shot at him — but the whispered interest only reinforces the notion that Lore and Rodriguez want to make splashy hires.
In the video the Raptors released announcing that you were re-signing, you kept referring to the city as “home.” Why does Toronto feel like home to you? Masai Ujiri: It will always feel like home to me. This is where three of my kids were born and I appreciate it. And you feel the love, you know? There’s something in the city that we’re all tied to in some special way. We are bonded with many things. And I love that. Whether it’s my team, whether it’s winning a championship, whether it’s doing the work we do, whether it’s leaning on people or people leaning on us, there’s plenty of love in the city. And I love that.
According to executive compensation experts that could mean Ujiri earning bonuses based on revenues or even participating in the growth in the valuation of the company over the course of his deal. Given the revenues MLSE has enjoyed, not to mention the trajectory of NBA franchise values – $2 billion and climbing, even at the low end – Ujiri is in position to be richly rewarded.
But he believes it can be done and the Raptors have given him a deal that expressed their full confidence that he can make history again. “I want to celebrate properly one day when we win a championship,” Ujiri said. “… And it’ll happen, by the grace of God.”
Following the announcement, Raptors governor and Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment chairman Larry Tanenbaum spoke with The Athletic about Ujiri’s role as vice-chairman of the organization. “I chair the Raptors, but it’s just a recognition that we’re really working together. We’re partners,” Tanenbaum said. “We’re (not just) partners in building the team, but partners in the other areas where he knows he speaks with authority.”
Tanenbaum confirmed that though Ujiri’s title is vice-chairman, he will not be a part of the ownership group in spite of rumors the Wizards were angling to offer that as a bonus to joining Washington. But the title carries significant weight for Ujiri, not just as one of the league’s most renowned basketball executives, but as someone who has taken on an increasingly prominent role in global basketball and philanthropic development. “It’s a title recognition that allows him to have maybe just a touch more (authority) when he goes out, (such) as in Africa, to know that we’re standing shoulder to shoulder there in the causes that he’s promoting,” said Tanenbaum. “Whether to community groups, to politicians, in Africa, it’s a title that allows him the platform. It’s a serious platform that he has and he is a serious guy.”
“It’s hugely important to both of us personally, for both Masai and myself. It’s a hugely important part of our lives,” Tanenbaum said. “For Masai, his work as our most senior executive with the Raptors and the successes that we have had can be seen in each game, each year as we’re as we’re building and as we won the NBA championship in 2019. But, for our basketball people, that’s his success. For me his success is on both businesses, basketball and making a difference in the world that we live in. He is making that difference.
“He has brought that aspect, whether it’s Giants of Africa or his work helping to build infrastructure through sport, to bringing sport into this, and really working with the many of the communities in Africa to educate. So it’s hugely important to me and our organization. It makes us all stand taller when we can get behind the work that Masai does off the court. We’re very proud of it.”
While he’s yet to sign a new deal with Raptors owners Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment or – conversely — indicate that’s he’s leaving after a spectacular, franchise-changing nine-year run, Ujiri has been doing what he always does in the build-up to the draft – eyeing talent, working the phones, laying out scenarios for free agency and beyond. “He’s working like someone whose team’s problems are his to fix. He’s all in on the draft, he’s looking at free agency,” said one player agent. “He’s coming back.”
Ujiri was giving observers a similar impression while at the NBA draft combine in Chicago recently. “He was acting like the president of the Raptors at the combine and on a mission to win another title,” said another.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t some doubts about his future. Until the deal is done, there will be concern at MLSE about being able to keep Ujiri, who is as closely identified with the franchise as any player in almost any market. Talks are ongoing, led by MLSE chairman and minority owner Larry Tanenbaum, although all the elements of the ownership group are represented.
Once again, Ujiri remaining in Toronto is the most likely scenario. “It’s moving slowly, but it’s moving,” said one source of Ujiri’s talks with MLSE.
It’s not that ownership doesn’t see it in the same way – “They love him, and they believe in him … he’s won them a championship and they believe he’s going to win them some more,” was how one source close to MLSE put it to me back in May – but a deal as big as Ujiri’s likely will end up being can have ripple effects in an organization that owns two other professional teams and is owned by a pair of publicly traded companies.
They can’t just be seen as randomly giving money or control away. But the expectation is that Ujiri will get the deal he wants and deserves, sooner than later. “The richest deal for a president/general manager in team sports history,” said one source.
His relationship with Tanenbaum is strong, and they communicate regularly; his connection with Toronto is real; his job offers both opportunity and flexibility to pursue other passions close to him, such as his foundation work in Africa; and the Raptors are determined to keep him. “There is nothing he can get somewhere else he can’t get here,” said the source close to MLSE. “His family loves Toronto. Toronto loves Masai. They’re going to pay him a lot of money. Like, why would he [leave]?”
It’s widely believed the NBA will expand for the first time since rounding out to 30 teams in 2004 partly to recoup losses from the pandemic. Returning to Seattle as part of the process is almost a given (with Las Vegas as the other likely city) now that the arena issues that led to the Supersonics leaving for Oklahoma City in 2008 have been resolved. “If there is expansion, he’s definitely going to get his opportunities,” said one league insider.
Ownership, maybe? That’s the peak of the NBA food chain and something that is unlikely to be available with MLSE given the breadth of properties it includes, and the complexities of the ownership structure that has two public companies as primary shareholders. A deal can be structured to mimic shareholder value, according to sources, but actually having equity in an enterprise worth multiple billions is unlikely.
There is a mounting confidence that there is a clear path for Ujiri’s return, and there will be a good-faith negotiation to find common ground on a deal that will extend the Raptors president’s tenure with Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment from eight years until as far into the future as he wants to stay. It’s not like MLSE has a plan B to replace the person more tightly woven into the fabric of the franchise than any player. Their position is straightforward. There are no tactics or posturing. “They love him, and they believe in him,” said a source close to the MLSE board. “He’s won them a championship and they believe he’s going to win them some more.”
Can a deal be done? Optimism is increasing. “Masai doesn’t share a lot; he’s very private and strategic in his own way,” said the source close to MLSE. “But if you were asking ‘Are they going to sign Masai?’ I would put it at 95 per cent yes.”
He’s been more active communicating with players, both in-person and via text, according to another source. Certainly those that have gone to battle with him want to stay the course. “He’s been the focal point of everything that’s Toronto Raptors ever since I’ve been here. Kyle Lowry is obviously the greatest Raptor of all time, and No. 2 might be Masai,” Raptors point guard Fred VanVleet said on Sunday.
Josh Lewenberg: Nurse on Ujiri's Raptors future: "I'll let him answer those questions. All I know is that I think we make a really good team and I hope that team stays intact and I enjoy working for him every day."
Josh Lewenberg: VanVleet on Masai: "He's shown no signs of anything else other than commitment towards us throughout this entire year... Contracts are contracts and you've gotta negotiate, so we'll see where he ends up going forward and hopefully it's back with us."
Like Lowry, Ujiri has been regarded by fans and the organization as Raptors royalty since the team’s championship run in 2018-19. It is widely presumed in league circles that only an overwhelming offer in a highly desirable market could lure him away from the influence and affection he has amassed in Toronto. Yet these many months without a deal and Webster’s rising profile as a natural successor have raised the question: How much longer will Ujiri be running the Raptors?
Some around the league, though, have wondered about a potential down-the-road option that does not yet exist. The group heading expansion efforts in Seattle features the longtime sports executive Tim Leiweke, who brought Ujiri to Toronto for the 2013-14 season.
Ujiri is a pending free agent again. His eighth season with the team is also the final year of his current contract, and all signals are that he is in no rush to sign an extension. The people he works for? They would have signed him yesterday if they could. “I can promise you, it’s not [MLSE],” said a source with knowledge of the ownership’s thinking. “They’d have to be nuts not to [want to sign him]. It’s not like there’s a Plan A and a Plan B. There’s only Plan A, and it’s him. But he’s a very deliberate guy, and the kind of guy you have to respect his space.”
The two sides haven’t talked in depth about his contract since February, according to sources. “I think there's just been so much that I know I've pushed it out 'til I think we get through a lot of this,” he said Saturday. “There's just so much going on with this relocation and the focus, and I don't want to be distracted that way.”
Josh Lewenberg: Ujiri says extensions for his staff (which presumably includes Webster) are "pretty much done... there's no issue." As for his contractual status, Masai says there's just been so much going on that he's pushed it back, but indicates that there's nothing to worry about.
Eric Koreen: Raptors GM Bobby Webster declines comment on his contract status, saying they would say more when they are ready to as an organization. The last time Masai Ujiri spoke to the media, he indicated an extension for Webster was in the process of getting done.
Toronto Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri, who has one year remaining on his contract, on Thursday said he has yet to enter discussions with team ownership about an extension. "No, I haven't had discussions, and honestly, coming out of this, things are a little raw," Ujiri said on a conference call with reporters. "I'm going to reflect a little bit, and we will address it when it's time to address it."
Ujiri was "super excited" after Nurse, the Coach of the Year this season after winning an NBA title with the Raptors last season, received a multiyear extension last week. Webster also is on the verge of getting an extension, Ujiri said. "The future is bright," Ujiri said. "But in terms of me, I haven't had those conversations, and I'll wait until those happen in the future."
Marc Stein: The strong rumble in the Bubble was that Toronto was closing in on new long-term deals for president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri and GM Bobby Webster as well as coach Nick Nurse ... Nurse's new deal was announced Tuesday ... now we await extensions for Ujiri and Webster
Josh Lewenberg: The Raptors have named John Wiggins VP of Organizational Culture and Inclusion. John helped launch Raptors 905 and has been with Toronto's G League team as their VP. In his new role, he'll lead a group to address social injustice, inclusion, equality and and political reform.
Marc J. Spears: The Raptors 905 name Courtney M. Charles it’s Vice President of Basketball and Franchise Operations. Charles will oversee business operations, basketball affairs and long-term strategic planning for the NBA G League affiliate of the Toronto Raptors.
James Dolan’s fast pace doesn’t appear to bode well for the candidacy of Raptors president Masai Ujiri, who has been high on the owner’s wish list. According to a source, Dolan has been leery on Ujiri, with the mounds of publicity he has gotten as a candidate and using the Knicks as leverage with Toronto.
The first is one of availability. Is he willing to go and is Toronto willing to let him walk? He’s reportedly under contract through 2020-21, and the Raptors could presumably sign him to an extension if they wished. There is scuttlebutt out there that he’s itching for another challenge and has eyes for a large American market (this point also came up in league circles when the Washington job was open) and that the Raptors’ ownership might be okay letting somebody else pay him an eight-figure salary while they promote GM Bobby Webster.
Besides a lot of money and a lot of freedom, no one knows what Dolan is looking for, although league sources believe Toronto Raptors top executive Masai Ujiri is intrigued with the job and the thought of being wanted by the flagship franchise.
Some league insiders also have questioned whether Dolan is as all-in on Ujiri as advertised, because of the perception in various corners that the league office (specifically N.B.A. Commissioner Adam Silver) is pushing Ujiri as the ideal candidate to try to rescue the Knicks. Memories of Ujiri famously fleecing the Knicks in the Carmelo Anthony trade when he was in Denver in 2011, and again in the Andrea Bargnani trade in 2013, are likewise described as potential Dolan turnoffs.
But behind Ujiri, Webster has watched, learned — and risen to the point of being a key piece of the Raptors NBA championship. Webster will bristle at that description, but it’s true. If Ujiri is the ship captain, Webster is the navigator. “Bobby is making a lot of the decisions in terms of everything they do,” says one NBA player agent who works closely with the Raptors. “Masai is the lead role and the face of the program, and obviously very involved… but Bobby is the driving force, at least for me, for a lot of the decisions they make.”
Even though Ujiri wanted Webster for his experience with the NBA’s new salary cap rules, Webster wasn’t content with that job alone. He could have done that anywhere — back at the league’s head office, he was basically doing it for every team. If Webster was going to leave New York, he wanted more than a job: he wanted an education. He wanted to learn how a team was run on the inside. He wanted to scout, he wanted to deal with coaches, he wanted to interact with the analytics staff. Ujiri agreed. If Webster provided his salary cap insights, Ujiri assured him that he could work on whatever else he wanted. He even let Webster make up his own job title. He settled on “vice president of basketball management and strategy.”
The Raptors’ ownership, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, could have avoided some of this noise by simply giving Ujiri an extension and a blank cheque this past summer but – contrary to a report that Ujiri turned down an extension – there has never been one been offered, according to sources. Which is understandable in some ways. It’s not like Ujiri’s current deal didn’t have lucrative bonuses tied to winning a title. And in most businesses – even with NBA stars – discussion doesn’t typically begin for extensions until a year before a current deal expires.
There is probably no city in the world that would provide a greater opportunity for Ujiri to further the ambitions of his foundation than New York, where he could walk to the United Nations for lunch and meet potential billionaire donors for breakfast. It’s a global nerve centre for business and politics and it would be impossible for Ujiri to fail to expand his already considerable network there. If his ultimate goal is to further his causes in Africa, New York is a better base to work from. The question, really, is if there is anything MLSE can do to make Ujiri a semi-permanent piece of the Toronto landscape, to make the Knicks or other threats distant or far-fetched?
Dolan had interest in pursuing Ujiri, the former Nuggets GM, after firing Phil Jackson in 2017, but the draft compensation was too large, according to sources. Instead he promoted Mills. There’s speculation Dolan would make another run at Ujiri if he gets a chance. “He’s the best GM in the league, why wouldn’t Dolan be interested if there’s an opening,’’ one NBA source who has spoken to the Knicks said.
While Webster is the only general manager with Asian heritage in a league where fewer than 1 percent of players are Asian, he rejects any notion that he is an outlier. Instead, the easygoing, media-averse executive views his mixed background as a core strength. His exposure to multiple cultures in the small beach town of Kailua, Oahu, honed a work ethic that made him the NBA’s youngest GM, at age 32, when he was promoted in 2017. It also instilled an open-minded philosophy that has helped guide the Raptors through a major transition following Kawhi Leonard’s departure.
“In our household, it was never so explicit: this is Asian, this is white,” Webster said. “There were never limits placed on me. If you’re a white kid, that’s a different experience. If you’re a full Asian kid, you’re like everyone else [in Kailua]. If you’re mixed, you’re cool. We had Jeremy [Lin] on the Raptors and I talk to him a lot. He looks Asian, and [dealing with stereotypes or bias] was much more on someone like him. I don’t think I look super Asian or white. Being both was freeing. Both communities always accepted me. I had the best of both worlds.”
The Toronto Raptors announced Tuesday they have promoted Alex McKechnie to Vice President, Player Health and Performance and signed him to a contract extension. McKechnie joined the Raptors in 2011 to oversees all athletic training, rehabilitation and strength and conditioning for the franchise. He has been part of six NBA championship winning teams and is regarded as an industry leader in core training and movement integration. Prior to coming to Toronto, McKechnie worked for 13 seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers, including eight as the athletic performance coordinator.
Ryan Wolstat: Masai: "We got a great deal out of this. We won a championship so we’re happy. Honestly it’s on to the next. This is the NBA and this is how it works out. I always say ... you can’t go hide under a table and cry, you know. Honestly I’ve lost no sleep."
On Tuesday, Ted Leonsis released a statement to The Washington Post in which he shared the plan to take his time in forming the franchise’s new leadership team. Leonsis also denied reports that the Wizards pursued Toronto Raptors President Masai Ujiri, who constructed the roster that won the NBA championship last week. Tommy Sheppard, who has led the Wizards’ basketball operations on an interim basis for the past 11 weeks, will continue in the role through Thursday’s NBA draft and the start of free agency, which begins June 30.
“We have not commented on the many rumors surrounding potential candidates during this process, but I wanted to make an exception in this case out of respect to the Raptors organization as they celebrate their well-deserved championship,” Leonsis’s statement said. “Any reports that we have interest in Masai Ujiri as a candidate are simply not true, and we have never planned in any way to ask for permission to speak to him during our process.”
The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office confirmed Friday morning it is pursuing a misdemeanor complaint against Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri for battery of a police officer after an altercation following Game 6 of the NBA Finals on Thursday night, a spokesman for the department told USA TODAY Sports. Ujiri is accused of twice shoving an officer and striking him in the face after he was stopped from coming onto the court to join the Raptors’ postgame celebration at the Golden State Warriors' Oracle Arena because he did not display a proper credential, according to police. Video of the aftermath of that incident was captured by NBC Bay Area, which was the first to report the complaint against Ujiri.
Ujiri appears to be holding a credential in his right hand in the video, and he also appears to be holding a credential in the same hand in a video that shows him watching the end of the game from the tunnel — before the incident occurred. However, per NBA rules, only personnel with specially designated gold armbands were allowed on the court after the conclusion of the game, and it's unclear if Ujiri was wearing one or had one in his possession. “We were told to strictly enforce the credentialing policy and not allow anyone onto the court without a credential, so our deputies were doing that,” Sgt. Ray Kelly, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office, said. “Our deputy contacted Mr. Masai Ujiri as he attempted to walk onto the court. He had no credential displayed, and our deputy asked for his credential.
Although an offer worth $10 million annually would place Ujiri among the league’s highest-paid executives, The Athletic previously reported that Ujiri’s decision likely would not come down to money. Raptors ownership, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, is loaded with revenue and could certainly increase Ujiri’s salary, which is somewhere in the $6 million to $7 million range currently, according to sources. “I know Masai. Masai is like my son. There’s no chance he’s leaving Toronto,” MLSE owner Larry Tanenbaum told reporters shortly after the conclusion of the Finals. “You can ask him that one, too. I know Masai.” Tanenbaum continued when asked what he would have to do to keep Ujiri: “I think if you asked Masai, he has everything he wants,” he said. “If you ask him, I think he’d say that. I know he’s here.”
The Wizards would, of course, have the issue of compensation. The Raptors made it clear it would take multiple first-rounders to land Ujiri when he semi-flirted with the Knicks a few years back, according to sources familiar with the situation. Would it take that this time? And if compensation is large enough, would the appeal of the job wane? The one thing the Wizards’ job has going for it on the basketball side, other than having Bradley Beal under contract for two more years, is that the team has all of its first-rounders. Technically, by the way, Toronto wouldn’t even need to grant Washington permission to speak with Ujiri, since he has two years remaining on his contract, per sources.
If Ujiri says no to the job, league sources believe Wizards VP of basketball operations Tommy Sheppard, who has been running the team in the interim since former president of basketball ops Ernie Grunfeld got fired 10 weeks ago, would be the favorite to land it, though it’s possible he doesn’t receive a long leash. One possibility would be Sheppard continuing to run the team with an interim tag on him, league sources believe. In that situation, he and the Wizards could decide a predetermined date to reevaluate his position. Another option could be him working the 2019-20 season on a one-year deal and then revisiting his job status next spring or summer.
The Wizards are preparing a six-year, $60 million offer for Raptors president Masai Ujiri, sources tell The Athletic’s Fred Katz and David Aldridge. Washington has been waiting on Ujiri since mid-May and did not want to make an official run at him until the Raptors’ playoff run ended. Owner Ted Leonsis plans to request permission from Toronto sometime soon. The Raptors won their first title in franchise history when they defeated the Warriors 114-110 in Game 6 of the NBA Finals on Thursday.
Although an offer worth $10 million annually would place Ujiri among the league’s highest-paid executives, The Athletic previously reported that Ujiri’s decision likely would not come down to money. Raptors ownership, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, is loaded with revenue and could certainly increase Ujiri’s salary, which is somewhere in the $6 million to $7 million range currently, according to sources.
Michael Grange: MLSE owner Larry Tanenbaum when asked about @wojespn report that Wizards owner @TedLeonsis is attempting to recruit Masai Ujiri with a $10-million a year offer and an ownership stake:

The Washington Wizards are preparing to offer Toronto Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri a deal that could approach $10 million annually and deliver him the opportunity for ownership equity, league sources tell ESPN. Wizards owner Ted Leonsis is expected to reach out to Toronto ownership soon to request formal permission to meet with Ujiri and offer a staggering financial package that would include running the Wizards basketball operations and, perhaps, taking on a larger leadership role in the Monumental Sports and Entertainment company that oversees the Wizards and NHL's Capitals, league sources said.
Wizards owner Ted Leonsis is expected to reach out to Toronto ownership soon to request formal permission to meet with Ujiri and offer a staggering financial package that would include running the Wizards basketball operations and, perhaps, taking on a larger leadership role in the Monumental Sports and Entertainment company that oversees the Wizards and NHL's Capitals, league sources said.
David Aldridge: As @FredKatz reported for @TheAthleticDC June 5, "Sources from around the NBA believe the team is waiting on Raptors president Masai Ujiri...The Wizards are most likely waiting until after the NBA Finals to do so." Those sources believe Wiz will offer Ujiri up to six years/$60M.
Tim Bontemps: Masai on making the NBA Finals: “Its surreal. But when you put the team together, you dream of an NBA championship ... the trade was hard, but we knew the kind of player (in Kawhi) we were getting. ... I think we were positive about this kind of moment. I know I dreamt of it.”
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December 8, 2021 | 8:24 pm EST Update