Bill Manning now has two championship teams to oversee.
The Toronto FC president is adding Argonauts president to his title in the wake of the Canadian Football League board of governors approving the Argo purchase by Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (MLSE).
Manning is now in charge of the MLS Cup and Grey Cup winners.
“Toronto football. I can’t go wrong either way,” Manning joked.
MLSE, which also owns the NHL’s Maple Leafs, NBA’s Raptors, AHL’s Marlies and Toronto FC, announced last month that it had an agreement in place to buy the Argonauts.
There had already been some cross-ownership. The Argos were currently owned by two-thirds of the MLSE triumvirate — chairman Larry Tanenbaum’s holding company, the Kilmer Group, and Bell Canada.
In bringing the Argos fully into the MLSE fold, Rogers Communications officially join its two MLSE partners as part of the CFL team’s ownership.
“Clearly on the football side I think they’re in good shape,” Manning said of the CFL team.
“This was just about how can we synergize the Argos into the MLSE portfolio,” he added. “Over the last few years, I’m really grateful that our board of directors and Larry thought that I’d done a good job with TFC and they wanted to see a similar model on how we can integrate the team side, the business side, the stadium side all into one.
“And then obviously sharing a stadium (BMO Field), I think we can find some synergies there. And scheduling we can make sure that both teams really get to maximize their schedule. So it was just, I think, a lot of areas that I can oversee and just make sure that we kind of have this be a rising tide that raises both boats.”
Manning, who took over TFC in October 2015, has football experience on his resume.
A former United Soccer League executive of the year with the Minnesota Thunder, he was 34 when he took over as president and GM of the Mutiny in 2000. After the MLS folded the franchise after the 2001 season, he worked for the NBA Houston Rockets (director of corporate partnerships) and then the NFL Philadelphia Eagles (vice-president sales and services) before Real Salt Lake brought him back to MLS in 2008.
He spent four years with the Eagles in all. There he was close to Tom Heckert, now senior personnel adviser for the Denver Broncos but formerly director of pro personnel for the Eagles.
“We used to share notes on how to be a GM,” Manning said.
Michael Copeland, who spent two years as Argonauts president and CEO, has been tabbed to join the MLSE leadership team along with Sara Moore, the Argonauts’ senior vice-president of business operations.
Manning said their immediate roles will be to help the Argos’ transition into the MLSE family.
“The Toronto Argonauts are an important and historic part of the sporting landscape in Toronto and across the country, and we appreciate the support of the CFL board of governors as the team officially becomes part of the MLSE family,” MLSE president and CEO Michael Friisdahl said in a release.
“As we begin the process of incorporating the Argos into the organization, we are very pleased to name Bill Manning as president of the club in addition to his current responsibilities as president of Toronto FC.
“Bill’s vast experience and championship vision as a sports executive will continue to be a great asset for Toronto FC, and now, the Argos. We look forward to Michael Copeland and Sara Moore joining the MLSE leadership team, and as a first order of business, playing an important role in the transition of the Argos to MLSE.”
In the release, MLSE said the process of incorporating the team into the company’s business operations would continue over the coming months.
“We are proud to officially welcome MLSE to the CFL and look forward to working with Bill Manning and the entire organization to enhance the experience for fans in Toronto, but also CFL fans right across the country,” said CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie.
Founded in 1873, the Argonauts are North America’s oldest continuously operated professional football club.