As reported in Press Today Breaking News yesterday, travel industry veteran, Michael Friisdahl will be leaving his job as president and CEO of Air Canada’s Leisure Group to take over as the president and chief executive office of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (MLSE) Ltd.
MLSE’s chairman, Larry Tanenbaum made the announcement today indicating that Friisdahl would take over his new responsibilities in December 2015.
Tanenbaum said: “Given our unparalleled sports executive and team leadership, MLSE’s CEO search focused on the appointment of a seasoned Canadian business executive to lead the organization and we’ve found exactly what we were looking for in Michael.”
MLSE’s chairman noted that: “As both an entrepreneur and a C-level executive in consumer-facing businesses at the Canadian and international level, Michael has shown an unwavering commitment to delivering for the customer. His focus will be on supporting our fans and our teams while maximizing the potential of MLSE’s iconic sports, entertainment and real estate assets.”
Commenting on his selection, Friisdahl said: “It is a true privilege to be chosen to lead MLSE, a proudly Canadian sports and entertainment company that rivals any in North America and indeed the world. As a Torontonian, I’m thrilled by the opportunity to focus all of our resources on supporting the Leafs, Raptors, TFC, Marlies, Raptors 905 and TFCII, and making Toronto the championship city that our fans deserve.”
He continued: “We have Toronto FC in the playoffs, Raptors 905 tipping off next month, NBA All-Star and the World Cup of Hockey at Air Canada Centre in 2016, Grey Cup 2016 at BMO Field and the 100th anniversary of the Maple Leafs in 2017. These are exciting times for Toronto, indeed for all Canadian sports fans, and I’m very proud to be leading the MLSE team that will deliver for them.”
As those in the industry know, Friisdahl has served as president and CEO of Air Canada’s Leisure Group since it was formed in 2012, combining Air Canada Vacations tour operations with Air Canada rouge, the company’s successful leisure airline. With Friisdahl at the helm, Air Canada rouge has seen significant growth and has been a important contributor to Air Canada’s very successful transformation.
He also brings an extensive background in customer service, marketing and sales management, finance, mergers and acquisitions, and business integration to his new role at MLSE.
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 Chief Operating Officer of Thomas Cook Canada and later North America.
He entered the industry as an entrepreneur in the mid-1980s and successfully built a travel wholesale business that merged to create The Holiday Network and become Canada’s leading independent wholesaler, specializing in independent travel packages.
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), which led to his move into the corporate and international spheres.