Leafs, Raptors owners to purchase Saint-Etienne

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Storied French club Saint-Etienne said on Monday they were in exclusive talks for a sale to the owner of the NBA’s Toronto Raptors and NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs.

The full purchase of the 1976 European Cup finalist by Larry Tanenbaum’s Kilmer Group should be ratified within weeks, the club said in a statement four days before a key end-of-season game in their push to be promoted back to top-tier Ligue 1.

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“I know what Saint-Etienne represents for its community and for French football,” Tanenbaum said in the statement, calling the club from central France “the beating heart of a city and its region.”

Saint-Etienne are 10-time champions of France, though not since 1981, when their star player was French great Michel Platini. Their 41,000-seat stadium is one of the venues for the men’s and women’s soccer tournaments at the Paris Olympics.

The pending deal was announced as Saint-Etienne prepares to end the second-tier regular season needing to win at Quevilly on Friday to stay in contention for a runner-up finish.

Saint-Etienne, who were relegated two years ago, are assured of at least a third-place finish and entry into a promotion playoffs bracket involving four teams.

The club said it wanted to “ensure an ambitious future” with a new owner that was “trusted, experienced and financially solid.”

Tanenbaum is the chairman and CEO of Kilmer Group and chairman of the board for Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, which owns the Raptors and Maple Leafs. Kilmer also is reportedly being awarded a franchise in Toronto for a WNBA team.

Saint-Etienne say the deal was being negotiated for Kilmer by Ivan Gazidis, the former CEO of Arsenal and Inter Milan.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this story.

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