Keith Pelley is set to leave golf’s DP World Tour to become president and chief executive (CEO) of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (MLSE), the Toronto-based sports franchise owner.
Pelley will succeed finance specialist Michael Friisdahl, who left MLSE in February 2022 to take over as executive chairman of Signature Aviation, a UK-based multinational aviation services company.
Friisdahl had been in charge since December 2015 when he replaced Tim Leiweke.
Chief financial officer Cynthia Devine has been serving as MLSE's interim president and CEO during the search for Friisdahl's successor.
Pelley joined the DP World Tour (then the European Tour) in 2015 from Rogers Media, a subsidiary of Canadian telecoms firm Rogers Communications.
He will be departing the tour at a significant point as it is concluding a framework agreement that will see the organization unite with the PGA Tour and the LIV Golf circuit backed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund.
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That agreement was first announced last June amid the trio’s bitter public spats and legal disputes and was initially slated to be completed by the end of 2023, but negotiations will continue this year after the parties failed to finalize a deal before their deadline of December 31.
Pelley was a staunch critic of LIV Golf and was involved in legal disputes with 16 players who left the DP World Tour to join the Saudi-backed tour.
He has considerable experience in sport having worked across several major North American leagues, including MLB, American football’s NFL, ice hockey’s NHL, and the Canadian Football League, in a career spanning almost 40 years.
Pelley orchestrated a 12-year, $5 billion rights contract for Rogers with the NHL in November 2013, which was the largest sports rights contract in Canadian history at the time.
In 2021, he secured a deal with Dubai-based logistics heavyweight DP World to take naming rights to the European Tour circuit.
Pelley also chose to align the European tour with the PGA Tour in a strategic alliance that now includes co-sanctioned events for both members, the Scottish Open in the UK, and two tournaments on the PGA Tour held opposite stronger events.
Before joining Rogers, he was executive vice president of strategic planning at rival media group CTVglobemedia and president of Canada’s Olympic Broadcast Media Consortium for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, overseeing production, programming, marketing, sales, and sponsorship in the run-up to and during the games.
Pelley will now lead one of North America's largest sports and entertainment groups and its multiple teams.
MLSE has franchises in four of the six major North American sports leagues, including the NHL’s Toronto Maples Leafs, the NBA’s Toronto Raptors, and Major League Soccer’s Toronto FC.