Michael Friisdahl returning to travel industry after MLSE departure
Michael Friisdahl

Michael Friisdahl returning to travel industry after MLSE departure

TORONTO — Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment is looking for a new president and CEO.

The owner of the NHL Leafs, NBA Raptors, CFL Argonauts, AHL Marlies and Major League Soccer’s Toronto FC said Tuesday that Michael Friisdahl, who has served in both roles since December 2015, is leaving at the end of February to become executive chairman of Signature Aviation, a British-based multinational aviation services company.

Chief financial officer Cynthia Devine has been named interim president and CEO during the search for Friisdahl’s successor.

“Michael’s leadership over the past six years has been incredibly important as the organization navigated through the highs of our successes and the challenges of managing the unprecedented impact of the COVID-19 pandemic these past two years,” MLSE chair Larry Tanenbaum said in a statement.

“Through it all, Michael raised the bar in every area of MLSE’s operation, and most importantly, made sure that the organization prioritized our leadership role in the community including finding impactful ways to help our city and its citizens recover from the pandemic.”

“Leading this organization for the past six years has been a highlight of my career and I am so proud of the organization’s accomplishments and the commitment shown by MLSE employees every day, but especially during the challenges of the past two years,” Friisdahl said in a statement.

MLSE declined further comment Tuesday.

Friisdahl has faced no shortage of challenges during his time in charge of the sports and entertainment conglomerate. Foremost among them has been the pandemic. MLSE has had to relocate teams, keep staff safe and adapt to ever-changing schedules and conditions.

In 2015 Friisdahl left his post as President and CEO of Air Canada Leisure Group to take the reins as President and CEO at MLSE.

Friisdahl served as President and Chief Executive Officer of Air Canada Leisure Group since it was formed in 2012, combining Air Canada Vacations with Air Canada rouge.

Prior to joining the Air Canada executive team, Friisdahl was CEO of Thomas Cook North America and a member of the international Group Executive Board of Thomas Cook Group plc. He was previously COO of Thomas Cook Canada and later North America.

Entering the industry as an entrepreneur in the mid-1980s, Friisdahl built a travel wholesale business that merged to create The Holiday Network. As a partner and President and CEO of The Holiday Network, he continued to grow the business until its acquisition by Thomas Cook Group plc (formerly MyTravel plc).