He’s been given the keys to the kingdom – or he’s earned them. Multiple sources have confirmed that there’s no ownership arrangement but in addition to a salary believed to be in the $15 million range, there is likely some ‘equity-like’ elements to the deal.
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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.”
Doug Smith: Larry Tanenbaum on Masai Ujiri: “Great sportsmen impact their games. Great leaders impact their communities. Masai Ujiri does both.”
Adrian Wojnarowski: ESPN Sources: Masai Ujiri – architect of the 2019 champions– has agreed to a significant new deal to become Vice Chairman and President of the Toronto Raptors. Ujiri continues as both Raptors top basketball/business executive and a global philanthropist through his Giants of Africa.
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.
Toronto Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri said Wednesday morning that his decision to re-sign with the franchise this offseason will be determined by conversations he is set to have with the team’s ownership group in the coming weeks. “Everybody says, ‘blank check, blank check,’ but I’m not as much focused on a blank check,” Ujiri said during a news conference that lasted for more than a half hour, when asked what he will think about in making his decision about whether to remain with the Raptors. “A lot of the things that we’ve done here, we have to move forward as a franchise to compete with the best in the NBA. This is all about winning a championship again.
“Let me tell you something, guys: everybody has forgotten what happened two years ago. OK, yes, we won. But nobody cares anymore, OK? We want to win another one. That’s what you want to do. Yeah, you want to prepare yourself to win another one. Not play in the play-in game, not play in the playoffs, you want to win a championship. Everybody’s like, ‘Why don’t you get into the play-in?’ Play-in for what? We want to win a championship here and we have to put ourselves in position.
Tim Bontemps: Masai Ujiri says there is “nothing new” about his future. Ujiri’s contract with Toronto is expiring.
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: 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.”
Larry Tanenbaum’s long-standing premise — that Masai Ujiri isn’t going anywhere — won’t be dealt with in any way until after this Raptors irregular season ends on Sunday. Tanenbaum, the chairman of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd., admitted Monday in a rare e-mail exchange that “Masai and I agreed months ago that we would sit down after the season has concluded to address his contract.”
In the meantime, Tanenbaum, who also serves without much notice as chairman of the board of the NBA, has been impressed with how the Raptors have handled this season under troubling circumstances. “I’m not sure the league will ever see a more challenging and defining year like the one we’ve just experienced,” he wrote in his e-mail. “The pandemic was incredibly difficult for all teams, with constantly changing circumstances and protocols, but the challenges the Raptors faced were unprecedented.”
Larry Tanenbaum: “We couldn’t be more proud of the way every member of the organization met those challenges. They all made massive sacrifices personally to move to Tampa, to do everything asked of them to make this season possible.”
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.
According to league sources, Ujiri’s lack of an extension is a notable non-event. Ujiri’s name has long been linked to just about any team looking for a top executive. And … are the 17-18 Raptors contenders?
Opposing executives are watching the trade deadline as a sign of Ujiri’s future. If he’s sticking around for the long haul, the guess is that he will make big trades to make the team younger.
But 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.”
But on his own deal he was far less definitive, citing that the logistics of seeing the team through the relocation from Toronto to Tampa Bay as a short-term obstacle, just as seeing the team through the pandemic and the restart was an obstacle before that. The two sides haven’t talked in depth about his contract since February, according to sources.
In conversations with other NBA executives and other league insiders, the consensus is his track record — his teams have made 10 consecutive playoff appearances and averaged more than 50 wins — and league-wide profile, combined with the leverage he has, will almost certainly make him the highest-paid executive in the league for now and into the foreseeable future. The bidding will start at $12 million a year. “Masai has gotten to the point where he’s maxed the market as it relates to someone in his position,” said one well-positioned league insider. “As far as a front-office person is concerned, he’s going to make the most money that a front-office person has ever made, and he’s probably going to be able to hold that, where no one is going to be able to usurp that number.”
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.”
In conversations with other NBA executives and other league insiders, the consensus is his track record — his teams have made 10 consecutive playoff appearances and averaged more than 50 wins — and league-wide profile, combined with the leverage he has, will almost certainly make him the highest-paid executive in the league for now and into the foreseeable future. The bidding will start at $12 million a year.
Eric Koreen: In terms of staff contract extensions, Masai says, “It’s pretty much done.” With Webster: “There’s no issues. I would consider that done soon enough.” Ujiri says with the Tampa move, he hasn’t wanted to focus on his own deal right now.
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.
There is a plan, and a time and a place for everything, and Larry Tanenbaum and Raptors president Masai Ujiri are working at their own pace on all of it. The long-term future of Ujiri, whose contract runs out at the end of next season, is a growing concern among the team’s fans but Tanenbaum knows there is no need to rush. There are other priorities, as Ujiri spelled out last week. “Our fans, they love Masai for all that he’s contributed to the Raptors franchise and to our community and to our country — and our appreciation for him, that can’t be measured,” Tanenbaum, the chairman of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, said in an interview Tuesday. “But it was his and my game plan to secure his management team extension before his own.”
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.”
Larry Tanenbaum told Postmedia he is not worried that another NBA team is once again trying to poach Masai Ujiri from the Toronto Raptors, adding that there’s no reason to believe the successful executive won’t remain in the city once his contract expires following the 2020-21 season. “We hope so,” Tanenbaum, who is MLSE part-owner and long-time chairman, said earlier this week at the Board of Governors’ meeting in Pebble Beach, Calif. “We haven’t talked (about an extension) at this point in time, but if you ask him, his intentions are pretty clear.”
When asked why a contract extension has not yet been offered, Tanenbaum said the timing wasn’t right. “Masai has a contract that goes for another two years — this season and next season — so there’s really no need at this point (to re-sign him),” he said.
For Tanenbaum, the fevered interest comes with the territory. “He is the best,” said Tanenbaum. “But no team can come to talk to him. That’s tampering. And every owner knows that. Masai is here to stay.”
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.
And then a reporter brought up the Wizards rumour. “I know Masai. Masai is like my son,” Tanenbaum said. “There’s no chance he’s leaving Toronto. You can ask him that one, too. I know Masai. … I think if you asked Masai, he has everything he wants. “We built a championship team together. What more could you want?”
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:
Ryan Wolstat: Masai Ujiri: “we have the best ownership in the NBA.”
The Toronto Raptors announced Friday they have signed President Masai Ujiri to a multi-year contract extension and promoted Jeff Weltman to general manager and Bobby Webster to assistant general manager/vice-president basketball strategy. Ujiri will continue to oversee basketball operations as president of the club. “I am grateful to the Board and Mr. Tanenbaum for the opportunity to continue our progress to build the Raptors into one of the top franchises in the NBA,” said Ujiri. “I’m also excited that Jeff and Bobby are being rewarded for their hard work and valuable contributions to our program. My family thanks the NBA, Raptors players and coaches, staff, Raptors fans, the city of Toronto and Canada for this opportunity. Toronto is home for us.”
The Toronto Raptors and team president Masai Ujiri are in advanced negotiations on a contract extension, according to league sources.
Sources said that the Raptors and Ujiri are nearing agreement on a lucrative new deal that will keep the 46-year-old in Canada for the foreseeable future, even though he still has nearly two years left on the original five-year, $15 million pact he signed with Toronto in May 2013.
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