John F. Bassett

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

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

Athletic career

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 semi-finals of the 1969 Canadian Open[6] and was champion of Ontario from 1965 to 1967.[2]

Business career

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. Bassett and Tom Ficara owned Federal Broadcasting Company, a seminal American cable TV network. Bassett and Ficara produced the first live, national commercial cablecast (of Bassett's WHA Birmingham Bulls team) in 1976. His other business interests included ownership of a computer software company and a real estate firm based in Sarasota, Florida. [2]

Sports franchise ownership

In 1973, Bassett and twenty-six others purchased the Ottawa Nationals of the World Hockey Association for $1.8 million after which 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, with Trump favoring 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 he was pulling the Tampa Bay Bandits from the USFL and starting another spring league for competition[7]. 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).[8] 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.[9] 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.[10]


In 2010, Bassett was elected as an inaugural inductee into the World Hockey Association Hall of Fame in the builders category.[11]

Personal life

Bassett was the son of Canadian Media mogul John W.H. Bassett and attended Upper Canada College in Toronto and 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. "John Bassett, Ex-USFL Owner, Dies of Cancer". Los Angeles Times. May 15, 1986. Archived from the original on September 25, 2015. Retrieved February 12, 2011.
  2. "Bandits: John Bassett". Archived from the original on September 25, 2015. Retrieved February 12, 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 September 25, 2015. Retrieved February 12, 2011.
  5. "John F. Basset Obituary". The New York Times. Archived from the original on September 25, 2015. Retrieved March 24, 2015.
  6. Sports (June 27, 1983). "Here's Carling, Her Daddy's Darling". Retrieved February 12, 2011.
  11. WHA Hall of Fame Members
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