Larry Ta­nen­baum: Toronto sports king

The Canadian Jewish News (Montreal) - - News - —RON CSILLAG

Larry Ta­nen­baum prob­a­bly won’t like this ar­ti­cle. More ac­cu­rately, he’ll shun the pub­lic­ity. As his old friend Paul God­frey once ob­served, Ta­nen­baum “looks for no per­sonal credit. He is shy about get­ting his name in the pa­per.”

It’s an in­con­gru­ous trait for some­one de­scribed in Toronto Life this way: “No one has greater sway over Toronto sports than Larry Ta­nen­baum.” In­deed, as chair­man of Maple Leaf Sports and En­ter­tain­ment (MLSE), Ta­nen­baum over­sees al­most ev­ery pro­fes­sional sports team in Toronto: the Maple Leafs, Rap­tors, Ar­gos, TFC and the Mar­lies.

He serves as a gover­nor of the NHL, the NBA and Ma­jor League Soccer, and is a mem­ber of pow­er­ful ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tees for each league.

Of­ten de­scribed as a calm, quiet man­ager, the 72-year-old Toronto na­tive is also a con­struc­tion and in­vest­ment ty­coon, who serves as chair­man and CEO of Kilmer Van Nos­trand Co. Ltd., a multi-faceted civil en­gi­neer­ing con­struc­tion com­pany head­quar­tered in Toronto’s Sco­tia Plaza.

He owns a 25 per cent stake in MLSE, through his hold­ing com­pany, Kilmer Sports Inc. The other 75 per cent is split evenly be­tween Bell Me­dia and Rogers Com­mu­ni­ca­tions. In 2015, Kilmer an­nounced it had ac­quired an own­er­ship stake in the Toronto Arg­onauts, in part­ner­ship with

A 2008 book ti­tled, Jews and the Sport­ing Life, says that Jewish own­ers of sports teams “have been open about their eth­nic and re­li­gious ties” and many are lead­ing bene­fac­tors. Ta­nen­baum, it said, was no dif­fer­ent.

He’s served on the board of di­rec­tors at Mount Si­nai Hospi­tal and on the ad­vi­sory board of Bay­crest. He was also a founder of the Cen­tre for Is­rael and Jewish Af­fairs and co-chaired the To­mor­row Cam­paign at United Jewish Ap­peal.

His net worth has been es­ti­mated by Cana­dian Busi­ness to be $1.53 bil­lion.

In 2013, he made head­lines when he do­nated $35 mil­lion to the Sa­muel Lunen­feld Re­search In­sti­tute, which was es­tab­lished in 1985 at Mount Si­nai Hospi­tal in Toronto and re­named the Lunen­feld-ta­nen­baum Re­search In­sti­tute. To­day, it is ranked in the top 10 bio­med­i­cal re­search in­sti­tutes world­wide.

It was Ta­nen­baum’s largest sin­gle phil­an­thropic gift, and it was de­signed to at­tract fur­ther giv­ing, with $15 mil­lion to be matched by other donors, to es­tab­lish 15 re­search chairs.

Ta­nen­baum’s story be­gan in 1911. Ac­cord­ing to fam­ily lore, the fam­ily’s pa­tri­arch, Abra­ham Ta­nen­baum, left Par­czew, Poland, north of Lublin, for New York that year. Two Toronto-bound ac­quain­tances from the same town per­suaded Abra­ham to join them.

“Soon af­ter ar­riv­ing in Toronto, Abra­ham was driv­ing a horse and cart through res­i­den­tial and in­dus­trial ar­eas of the city in search of scrap metal. By 1914, on the eve of war in Europe, Abra­ham had saved enough to bring his wife, Chippa Sura, and two young sons, Joseph and Max, to join him in Toronto,” re­lates the on­line Jewish Vir­tual Li­brary.

Abra­ham pros­pered and built the Run­nymede Iron and Steel Com­pany into a ma­jor steel fab­ri­ca­tion firm and real es­tate em­pire. His son, Max (who es­tab­lished his own com­pany, York Steel), had seven chil­dren, among them Larry, who stud­ied eco­nom­ics at Cor­nell Univer­sity.

God­frey, a former Metro Toronto chair­man who was in­stru­men­tal in bring­ing a pro-base­ball team to Toronto and is now pres­i­dent and CEO of Post­media Net­work, re­called in a 2011 Toronto Star in­ter­view that Max Ta­nen­baum, Larry’s fa­ther, do­nated $100 to God­frey’s first po­lit­i­cal cam­paign – and never asked for any­thing in re­turn.

“Larry is very much a chip off the old block,” God­frey said of Ta­nen­baum’s char­i­ta­ble works.

“It all goes back to the Ta­nen­baum fam­ily be­lief that if you take some­thing out of the com­mu­nity like they have, you have to set the ex­am­ple for your chil­dren and your grand­chil­dren; you have to give back.”

Ta­nen­baum was named an of­fi­cer of the Or­der of Canada in 2007.

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