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Report: John Bitove Loses Control of Raptors

November 15, 1996

TORONTO (AP) _ In a battle for majority ownership of the Toronto Raptors, Allan Slaight wrested control of the team from John Bitove Jr., the Canadian Press reported.

Slaight had exercised a clause in the ownership agreement forcing Bitove to buy Slaight’s shares or be bought out himself. Bitove tried to find a buyer, but negotiations failed to produce an agreement by the midnight deadline.

Both Bitove and Slaight owned 39.5 percent of the team. Slaight, a Toronto radio station owner, will end up with 79 percent.

Bitove, who needed to find a buyer willing to pay $65 million for Slaight’s shares, spent Thursday talking to Edsel Ford, the chief operating officer of the Ford motor company’s credit branch, about buying Slaight’s shares and most of Bitove’s, CP said.

That would have allowed Bitove to remain a minority shareholder and a member of the board of directors. Ford is a nephew of Detroit Lions owner William Clay Ford.

The other ownership breakdown _ 10 percent by the Bank of Nova Scotia, nine percent by vice-president and general manager Isiah Thomas and one percent by two others _ remains unchanged.

The Slaight-Bitove dispute was centered on the team’s proposed and oft-delayed $140 million arena just south of downtown Toronto. Bitove wanted a Raptors-only facility. Slaight felt it made more sense to go with the Leafs in a jointly-owned facility.

The NBA still has to approve the change in the ownership structure.

The Raptors would have no official comment until Friday, spokesman Matt Akler said.

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