The Toronto Raptors still find themselves in the headlines in Canada even though the 2011/12 NBA is on hold. But it’s mostly for all the wrong reasons. One of the most interesting stories developing concerns a season-ticket holder who’s taking the club’s owner, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE), to court.

Mark Michalkoff, a Toronto businessman, said MLSE has been treating him like dirt ever since it installed a new row of seats in front of his “first-row” seats at the Air Canada Centre in 2007. Michalkoff was asked to pay $915 per game for his two seats, which MLSE said was in the front row on the court. However, the organization then added a new row of seats in front of Michalkoff’s. This effectively made his row the second not the first.

MLSE has reiterated by saying the fan is dishonest and is actually a ticket scalper. The two sides have tried to solve problem by going to mediation, but didn’t have any success, so they’re headed to Ontario Superior Court. Michalkoff is suing MLSE for a total of $1.6 million, but said a lawsuit could have been prevented if the sports group simply said they were sorry.

He said MLSE didn’t even answer his communications and then insulted him by calling him a scalper in their counterclaim. In the court filings, MLSE said Michalkoff runs a company called DLF Solutions Inc. and they sell Raptors tickets for a profit and are therefore ticket brokers and are breaching the season-ticket holder contract.

The argument started back in 2007 when MLSE asked a colleague of Michalkoff at DLF Solutions if they wanted to trade their pair of third-row seats for better ones. Michalkoff agreed and paid for the seats in advance for the 2007/08 season. Just before the season began MLSE said it planned on installing half a dozen seats in front of Michalkoff’s and if he wanted to upgrade again it would cost him $1,650 for each game.

But Michalkoff said he upgraded his seats the first time because MLSE said they were the very front row at courtside and were unobstructed and then a few months later they asked him to cough up more money. Michalkoff responded by writing to Richard Peddie, the president of MLSE, to try and settle the argument. He said his company had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years for Raptors and Toronto Maple Leaf tickets as well as seat licenses, but Peddie didn’t answer him.

Finally, an MLSE official named Robin Brunder met with Michalkoff to find out what they wanted and apologized. Michalkoff said all he asked for was a public apology and justice, but nothing was done about it. MLSE then called the fans scalpers in the court documents, but Michalkoff said DLF’s business is providing its clients with gift cards and adds on a five per cent service fee which covers the company’s expenses for distributing the tickets.

Michalkoff said there are plenty of commercial ticket brokers selling tickets in Toronto and MLSE doesn’t seem to have a problem with them even though the tickets were purchased via seat licenses with MLSE. Michalkoff said that MLSE gave him his money back for the 2007/08 season as well as $23,000 for the seat license, which is a fee giving a business the right to purchase tickets to events.

However, Michalkoff isn’t backing off and is still looking for damages of $1.6 million. He still has two other seats for Raptors games as well as four season tickets for the Maple Leafs. He said even though MLSE treats its fans badly, he still loves the teams.


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