John F. Bassett

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John F. Bassett
Born (1939-02-05)February 5, 1939
Ontario, Canada
Died May 15, 1986(1986-05-15) (aged 47)
Toronto, Canada
Occupation Tennis player, businessman, film producer, squash player

John F. Bassett (February 5, 1939 – May 15, 1986)[1][2] was a Canadian tennis player, businessman, and film producer.[3]

Athletic career[edit]

Bassett won the Canadian Open Junior Doubles Championship in 1955 when he was 15 years old.[2] He reached the second round of the 1959 U.S. National Championships in singles, appearing only in the main draw of the tournament. Bassett never played a Davis Cup match for Canada,[4] though he was on the team in 1959.[1][2] He was also a member of Canada's 1959 Pan American Games tennis team.[2] He played tennis, squash, football and hockey at the University of Western Ontario.[5]

Bassett was also a successful squash player; he reached the semifinals of the 1969 Canadian Open[6] and was champion of Ontario from 1965 to 1967.[2]

Business career[edit]

In 1960, Bassett initially worked as a reporter for The Victoria Times. He later worked for the family-owned Toronto Telegram until it folded in 1971. Bassett also worked as a motion film producer, serving as a president of Amulet Pictures, Ltd.[2] He produced the films Paperback Hero, Spring Fever, and Face Off. His other business interests included ownership of a computer software company and a real estate firm based in Sarasota, Florida. [2]

Sports franchise ownership[edit]

In 1973, Bassett and twenty-six others purchased the Ottawa Nationals of the World Hockey Association for $1.8 million. The team was moved to Toronto, where it was renamed the Toronto Toros. After three seasons in Toronto, Bassett moved the Toros to Birmingham, Alabama in 1976, renaming them the Birmingham Bulls. The Bulls operated in Birmingham until 1979, when four of the six surviving WHA clubs (Edmonton Oilers, New England Whalers, Quebec Nordiques, and Winnipeg Jets) were absorbed into the National Hockey League. The Bulls and the Cincinnati Stingers were not included in the merger/expansion agreement.[5]

In 1974 John F. Bassett started the World Football League's Toronto Northmen. He signed three stars from the National Football League's Miami Dolphins - Larry Csonka, Jim Kiick and Paul Warfield - and they joined the WFL in 1974. The controversy this stirred in Canada forced him to move the team to Memphis, Tennessee and rename it the Memphis Southmen.[5] In addition to owning both the Southmen and the Toros/Bulls, Bassett also owned the USFL's Tampa Bay Bandits, and the Toronto-Buffalo Royals of World Team Tennis.[2]

He previously owned an interest in the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League (CFL).[5]

In early 1986, just months before his death, Bassett sparred with New Jersey Generals owner Donald Trump over the league's schedule. Trump favored moving the USFL to a fall schedule while Bassett wished to keep the USFL a spring league. When it was decided that the USFL would go head-to-head with the NFL in the fall, Bassett announced that he was pulling the Tampa Bay Bandits from the USFL and seeking another league for competition, including possibly starting his own (some contemporary reports suggested Bassett wanted to launch a multi-sport league, something most sports media types considered both outlandish and a product of his illness). CFL Commissioner Douglas Mitchell denied Bassett's team entry in the League due to its U.S. location, although the CFL later expanded into the United States (1993–95).[7][not in citation given] He sold his interest as managing general partner in the Tampa Bay Bandits in 1985.[5]

A subsequent lawsuit between the USFL and NFL led to the demise of the former.[8] While the USFL defeated the NFL in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York in an antitrust lawsuit under U.S. federal law, the league was awarded only $3 in compensatory damages.[9]


In 2010, Bassett was elected an inaugural inductee into the World Hockey Association Hall of Fame in the builders category.[10]

Personal life[edit]

Bassett was the son of Canadian Media mogul John W.H. Bassett and attended the University of Western Ontario. He and his wife Susan had four children, including former women's professional tennis player Carling Bassett.[6] They lived in Toronto and Sarasota.[2][6] Bassett died on May 15, 1986 in Toronto General Hospital after a long illness, suffering from two brain tumors.[1]


  1. ^ a b c LA Times (15 May 1986). "John Bassett, Ex-USFL Owner, Dies of Cancer". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 25 September 2015. Retrieved 12 February 2011. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Bandits: John Bassett". Archived from the original on 25 September 2015. Retrieved 12 February 2011. 
  3. ^ Maslin, Janet (January 15, 1983). "The Last American Virgin (1982) FROLICS IN FLORIDA AND OTHER ANTICS". The New York Times. 
  4. ^ Davis "Canada Player Win/Loss". Archived from the original on 25 September 2015. Retrieved 12 February 2011. 
  5. ^ a b c d e "John F. Basset Obituary". New York Times. New York Times. Archived from the original on 25 September 2015. Retrieved 24 March 2015. 
  6. ^ a b c Sports (27 June 1983). "Here's Carling, Her Daddy's Darling". Retrieved 12 February 2011. 
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^ WHA Hall of Fame Members

External links[edit]