As It Didn't Happen: When Anne Murray tried to buy the Maple Leafs

Anne Murray, a music superstar and lifelong hockey fan, once tried to become the owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Music superstar and devoted hockey fan confirmed involvement in $40M bid for Leafs in 1985

Yes, it's true -- Anne Murray was part of a bid that sought to buy the Toronto Maple Leafs during the 1980s. (Bill King/Capitol Records/Getty Images)

You know how these things go. 

A musician wants to buy a sports team and that sends the news industry into overdrive.

Like when Bon Jovi wanted to buy the Buffalo Bills. Or when Jay-Z invested in the Brooklyn Nets and later sold his interest in the team so he could become a player agent.

Or that time Anne Murray tried to buy the Toronto Maple Leafs — wait, what?

'The most avid hockey fan ever'

Anne Murray's interest in the Maple Leafs

38 years ago
Duration 0:43
In February 1985, CBC News talks to Anne Murray about the interest she had and had expressed in buying the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Yes, the Springhill, N.S.,-born songstress sought to buy the Toronto Maple Leafs from Harold Ballard, as part of group of investors, during the 1980s.

"Anyone who's ever read anything or knows anything about me knows that I'm the most avid hockey fan ever," the singer told CBC News in February 1985.

"I mean, I'm an avid sports fan, but hockey, in particular, has been my love for a long time."

At that point, the Murray-involved push for the Leafs had recently been reported on in the media and the Snowbird singer confirmed the figure surrounding the bid.

$40M for the frequently losing Leafs?

Anne Murray told CBC News that Harold Ballard wanted more money than what she and a group of investors had offered him for the Maple Leafs in the 1980s. (Canadian Press)

"Of course, now, I was only offering $40 million and Harold [Ballard] wants $100 million," she said, referring to the controversial Maple Leafs owner.

It was not a great time to be a Leafs fan at that point, as the team only won 20 games during the season that Murray was talking about her interest in the team. Some fans were even wearing custom-printed masks to games, signalling their embarrassment with the flailing franchise.

The Toronto Star had reported that the offer had first been made in 1983 and that Murray's group sought to buy the team, Maple Leaf Gardens, as well as the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

The paper also said the proposed offer had not been discussed by the board of Maple Leaf Gardens, suggesting it did not progress very far.

'Not once have they won'

The Toronto Maple Leafs had a value separate from their famed arena, Maple Leaf Gardens. (Venture/CBC Archives)

Yet the story of Murray's Leafs bid made news when it was publicly disclosed and it came up again on CBC's Venture a couple of years later.

Host Patrick Watson gave viewers a brief overview of how the Ballard years had been for Leafs fans, when the Venture episode went to air in January 1987. 

"Not once have they won the Stanley Cup since he took the reins and yet, seeming to defy many of the basic rules of good business, he's racked up the company's fattest profits ever," Watson said.

'Enjoyable conversations' ... but no deal

Lyman MacInnis said he'd tried to discuss an offer for the Maple Leafs with Harold Ballard, but he wasn't sure the businessman had understood that an offer was what he was being presented with. (Venture/CBC Archives)

Venture interviewed Lyman MacInnis, a financial advisor who met with Ballard on the singer's behalf.

"We had a couple of very enjoyable breakfasts and we had some very enjoyable conversations about Anne Murray and to this day, I'm not too sure that Mr. Ballard realized that I was trying to buy the company from him," MacInnis told Venture.

The $40-million offer that the Murray group made may have been a bit low, even considering the Leafs' long struggles on the ice. Venture said Fortune magazine put the value of the team at $50 million and Watson said real estate experts believed Maple Leaf Gardens could fetch $60 million if put up for sale.

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