TORONTO (AP) -- Ted Rogers had just signed an agreement for his cable television and cell phone empire to buy a controlling interest in the Toronto Blue Jays, and already he had bigger plans.
The president and chief executive officer of Rogers Communication told a news conference announcing the deal Friday that he now wants to focus on bringing a National Football League team to Toronto.
"We think this city deserves an NFL team and we want to be partly responsible for bringing that here," Rogers said.
"So we have a few humble ideas."
For Rogers, the Blue Jays deal is a move by the company to acquire content for its telecom and broadcasting pipelines, which include Canada's largest cable TV system, the country's biggest mobile phone company -- Rogers AT and T Wireless -- and radio and television stations.
"In a few years, you will be able to see the Blue Jays on your wireless phone," he said.
Rogers and Paul Godfrey, the new Blue Jays chairman, have to solidify a franchise that has struggled since consecutive World Series championships in 1992-93.
Rogers Communications agreed to purchase 80 percent of the team from Interbrew SA, a Belgian brewery, for $112 million. Interbrew, which acquired the Blue Jays in 1995 when it purchased Labatt Brewing Co., keeps a 20 percent interest in the club.
The sale requires approval from baseball owners, a process expected to take six months to a year.
This is "an absolutely spectacular move for the city of Toronto, the Toronto Blue Jays and the game of baseball," said Paul Beeston, baseball's chief operating officer and the Blue Jays' former president.
Rogers said he was pleased that his company was joining other media giants such as Time Warner Inc. (Atlanta Braves), News Corp. (Los Angeles Dodgers), Tribune Co. (Chicago Cubs) and The Walt Disney Co. (Anaheim Angels) in owning baseball teams.
Godfrey, who helped bring the franchise to Toronto in 1977, said it's important to boost lagging attendance at SkyDome, a 50,000-seat stadium that's drawing an average of about 22,000 fans a game.
"We have to bring fans back to baseball one at a time," he said. "That means going out into the community and selling the game of baseball. ... We can capture them again and we will capture them again."
Asked whether the Blues Jays would increase spending to go after free agents, Godfrey and Rogers said it was too soon to discuss personnel matters.
A bigger deal by Rogers Communications -- the multibillion-dollar purchase of Quebec's largest cable TV company, Videotron -- is stalled in a Quebec court, but fits into the company's long-term growth plan.
Rogers Communications also is attempting to expand its existing 30 percent stake in the CTV Sportsnet channel from BCE Inc. and plans to broadcast Blue Jays games over the sports channel.
"We've seen a trend in North America to entertainment and communications companies being more and more involved in sports," Rogers said. "That's a good trend because those companies can help sports and sports can help those companies."
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.