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Bitove Bows out, Slaight Maps Out Raptors’ Future

November 15, 1996 GMT

TORONTO (AP) _ The organization John Bitove Jr. built from scratch three years ago will be left largely intact by radio magnate Allan Slaight, the new majority owner of the Toronto Raptors.

Isiah Thomas, who owns nine percent of the stock, is secure as general manager and vice-president of the NBA team.

``I’m pretty sure we can form a relationship where we can work together,″ Thomas said Friday. ``I’ll meet with Allan and see what direction he wants to go.″

Slaight, owner of media giant Standard Broadcasting, gained control when Bitove failed to come up with the estimated $65 million needed to buy out Slaight’s 39.5 percent at Thursday’s deadline.

Bitove told reporters he had been overwhelmed by support and offers to help buy the team, but called the sale ``probably the most prudent thing to do for reasons that will remain confidential.″

He did not elaborate.

Slaight will make some notable changes:

_ A new team president to replace Bitove will be announced within two days.

_ Slaight plans to sell some of his 79 percent control of the teams.

_ The Raptors will work with the NHL’s Maple Leafs in a new building, although the Leafs insist it won’t be the downtown site that Bitove coveted for the Raptors.

``We are not interested in that site,″ said Leafs alternate governor Brian Bellmore. ``We don’t think the design or the economics of the site are good.″

Bellmore restated the intention to build and control a new arena to replace the 65-year-old Maple Leaf Gardens, although he was open to the idea the Raptors could be more than just a tenant.

``If they want to participate, that would be something for future discussions,″ Bellmore said. ``With Mr. Slaight gaining control and given his preference for sharing a facility, we think it would be better for both organizations.″

Bellmore said he hoped to meet with Slaight early next week.

``I would like to think for the fans of Toronto, there will be a superb two-team building,″ Slaight told a news conference. ``That’s the main benefit I believe will flow from this.″