Rogers Communications, the owners of the Toronto Blue Jays, is undergoing a big change in governance as retiring CEO Nadir Mohamed is being replaced by Guy Laurence as the head of the giant media empire effective December 2, 2013. Laurence, a Briton from Manchester, was previously the CEO of Vodaphone. On Friday afternoon, Toronto Sports Media (@yyzsportsmedia) tweeted that he had received a tip that Laurence may be pushing to cut the budget to the Blue Jays, and that money (either this coming season or seasons going forward) may be "very tight." The tweets were sort of expanded into a short blog post here.
the same folks who told me about layoffs at Rogers media r telling me @bluejays budget is being closely examined. $ could b very tight— jonah (@yyzsportsmedia) November 22, 2013
Merry Christmas, Blue Jays fans.
Of course, the mentioned layoffs referred to the 94 Rogers Media employees who were let go earlier this month. Rogers Media is the arm of Rogers Communications that operates the Blue Jays as well as Sportsnet, their television and radio broadcasters.
While Nadir Mohamed had not hassled himself with the everyday operations of the Blue Jays, he does get consulted on any large dealings. He was personally involved in the approvals of Jose Bautista's contract extension, and the trades with the Marlins and Mets last offseason. Mohamed had been supportive of the Blue Jays, and as recently as August, pledged his support for the baseball club. He was quoted saying that he had turned from a casual to a "big fan" of the Jays during the last few years.
Before the end of the season, Keith Pelly, president of Rogers Media, said that he believed that the change in CEOs should not "should not affect the offseason process." It is likely that the ownership has already approved a ballpark figure for Paul Beeston and Alex Anthopoulos to work on entering the offseason, but would need to be approached again to greenlight any additional expenses.
Right now, not considering arbitration awards to eligible players, the Blue Jays have a payroll commitment of $110 million in 2014, $91 million in 2015, $27.6 million in 2016, and Jose Reyes's $22 million in 2017 according to Cot's Contracts.
Hearing that the incoming Guy Laurence may tighten up the Blue Jays' budget is concerning, but I would not read all too much into this report--at least not yet. As a bottom-line-conscious CEO who was known for turning around Vodafone through cultural changes, budget cuts, and layoffs, it is not entirely surprising to hear that he would be investigating into an arm of his company where very well-paid employees play a sport that he is probably not very familiar with. Since he doesn't seem to be dim of wit, I would assume that he also understands the value of Blue Jays content for Sportsnet channels and he knows the number of fans who have come out to the stadium Rogers owns. He would have to do his own arithmetic to see whether a backlash from fans over a budget cut is worth it.
There still is a lot of lingering fears about European ownership from back in the deep, dark, Interbrew days, but fans should keep in mind that Rogers Communications remain a Canadian company despite their CEO being from the United Kingdom. It might not be as easy for Beeston and Anthopoulos to talk to him about reasons behind specific player acquisitions, but perhaps he is someone who, like his predecessor, turn into a big Blue Jays fan.
On the plus side, now we might be able to use the #CheapRogers hashtag again.