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Steve Atanas Stavro, (September 27, 1927 - April 24, 2006), born Manoli Stavroff Sholdas, was a Canadian businessman, grocery store magnate, Thoroughbred racehorse owner/breeder, sports team owner, and a noted philanthropist.
Toronto Maple Leafs - Maple Leaf Sports & EntertainmentEdit
A long-time friend of Toronto Maple Leafs owner Harold Ballard, Stavro had served as a director of Maple Leaf Gardens since 1981, and he, Don Giffin, and Don Crump served as the executors of Ballard's will following the latter's death. Stavro became Chairman of the Board of Maple Leaf Gardens and governor of the Maple Leafs in October 1991 following Ballard's death. That year, Stavro paid off a $20 million loan that had been made to Ballard in 1980 by Molson. In return, he was given an option to buy Maple Leaf Gardens shares from Ballard's estate. Molson also agreed to sell its stake in Maple Leaf Gardens Ltd. to Stavro. That deal closed in 1994, and shortly after Stavro bought Ballard's shares from the estate for $34 a share or $75 million. The purchase was the subject of a securities commission review and a lawsuit from Ballard's son Bill, but the deal stood.
In contrast to Ballard, Stavro was a somewhat reclusive man who hated the spotlight, and largely left the Maple Leafs in the hands of the hockey operations staff. The first period of success was led by general manager Cliff Fletcher. In 1992–93, the Maple Leafs had their first winning season in 14 years, coming within one game of the Stanley Cup Finals, and again made the Conference Finals the following season. During the tenure of head coach and general manager Pat Quinn from 1999 to 2002, the team was an annual contender, clinching a Northeast Division title, the first two 100-point seasons in franchise history, and two Eastern Conference Finals appearances. However,his legacy was somewhat tainted when he vetoed the Fletcher deal for The Great One himself, Wayne Gretzky. Said Gretzky "Toronto was my first choice. It was really where I wanted to go. But Cliff came back and said he had taken it to the owner, and the owner nixed it." Indeed, who knows what the Leafs may have been able to do with the likes of Mike Gartner, Dave Gagner and Todd Gill, and thus began the dismantling of the team in order to save money, by accepting mediocrity, when the Gardens, and then the Air Canada Centre are sold out every night.
Maple Leaf Gardens, Limited was renamed Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment in 1996, with the acquisition of the Toronto Raptors of the National Basketball Association after establishing a partnership with Larry Tanenbaum. The partnership enabled the Leafs and Raptors to share the new Air Canada Centre rather than building two separate venues. However, Stavro and Tanenbaum were said to have a poor relationship, as Tanenbaum disputed a report that claimed that Stavro saw him as a favored son. A Globe and Mail Report on Business magazine article also alleged that Stavro would worry about minute details such as hot dogs. The owners' lounge at the Air Canada Centre was modeled in a Scottish theme with dark wood panels while Stavro was chairman; his successor Tanenbaum had the room remodeled to a white modernistic style with some insiders saying that the change was made because the old room reminded him too much of Stavro.
Stavro was also known in the local Macedonian community to have a friendly competition with fellow Macedonian Mike Ilitch who owned a rival NHL hockey team, the Detroit Red Wings. Stavro's Knob Hill Farms sponsored a hockey team in the Metro Junior A League in the 1962–63 season. The team and the league folded after the end of the season.
Stavro stepped down as Chairman of MLSE in 2003 in favour of Tanenbaum, as part of a restructuring plan that also saw him sell his majority stake to the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan. Jim Leech, OTTP Senior Vice President of Private Equity (also known as the Teachers' Merchant Bank), had orchestrated the deal after the closure of Stavro's Knob Hill Farms grocery chain, giving rise to rumours that the financial state of MLSE could also be affected. Stavro received a luxury box as part of the deal, which caused some controversy as several disabled season-ticket holders were displaced without notification.
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