Former MLSE president speaks at St. FX

Christopher Cameron
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Former Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment president and CEO, Richard Peddie answers a question after speaking at the Schwartz Auditorium at St. FX on Wednesday afternoon. Peddie discussed some of the lessons he learned over his career as the president of MLSE, in front of a near-capacity crowd.

Peddie discusses lessons learned as boss of Leafs, Raps, TFC and Marlies

ANTIGONISH – Richard Peddie admitted that if he could’ve had his name on the Stanley Cup he would’ve accepted being less successful in the front office.

That is no longer an option for the former Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment president and CEO, who spoke yesterday at St. FX’s Schwartz Auditorium about how he achieved having his dream job and some of the lessons he learned in his team with MLSE.

“Teams are the engine and things are a lot easier – the hot dog tastes better when you’re winning,” he said. “If you’re winning, selling tickets, selling suites, selling corporate sponsorship and selling hot dogs is a lot easier than when you’re losing and it puts a lot of pressure on the organization. Obviously you want to win, but there’s one winner and 29 losers every year. It’s tough to win. It was easier to win on the business side than the sports side.”

Retiring three years ago, Peddie achieved his dream job in 1996 when he was named president and CEO of the Toronto Raptors, eventually taking on the same roles with MLSE in 1998.

“When I was 20 I wrote down that I wanted to run a basketball – an NBA basketball team – and there were only 12 of them (in 1967),” he said. “Commander Hadfield, when he was nine, said he wanted to be an astronaut and there were no Canadian astronauts. I had a dream. I wrote it down in a journal and for 29 years I got my ticket punched. I ran consumer product companies, Skydome, TSN, so when I’m 49-years-old and they need a president of a basketball team, frankly there was no one better prepared than me.

“Have a dream, work really hard at it. You might realize it, but if you don’t realize it you’ll achieve much from trying.”

With the Maple Leafs of the NHL, Raptors of the NBA, Marlies of the AHL and eventually Toronto FC (MLS) all owned by one group there is a lot of variety when it comes to their sports. There also hasn’t been a lot of success on the ice, court or pitch for these teams, but in the front office things have been booming, mostly thanks to Peddie. According to an article in Forbes from 2007 he tripled the value of MLSE to $1.5 billion in his first nine years. In the same report they also called him a bum to hockey fans, something he joked about yesterday at St. FX while discussing how all the teams worked under their group.

“There is one CFO, CEO – marketing was all synergistic – sales, food and beverage,” he said. “All of that was spread across all the franchises. Then you have the individual general managers. People would criticize me for getting into the condo business, but Brian Burke, Dave Nonis and those guys never worried about condos or spent any time on condos. You empower the general managers and hope you hired the best general managers. They do their sports thing and I’m the business guy that gives them a lot of autonomy.”

In his talk yesterday in front of a near-capacity crowd he also gave students six lessons from his book “Dream Job” that he learned over his time with MLSE and other president and CEO roles with consumer product companies before the Raptors job. In a more personal meeting before the event open to all students and the general public he also spoke to 50 student leaders on what it takes to be a leader in the 21st century.

“It was completely a leadership message – I have a quote from (John) Maxwell that says leadership doesn’t happen in a day, it takes a lifetime,” he said. “I talked about the values you need to be successful, how you have to invest in your career and the work you have to do on it. I also challenged them right at the beginning. I said some of them would be awful leaders, some would be great leaders and the amount of time they invest in it that will determine how good they are.”

On Twitter: @NGNewsChris

Organizations: Maple Leafs, Toronto Raptors, NBA NHL Dream Job

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