SBD/Issue 244/Franchises

Ice Edge No Longer Planning To Participate In Coyotes Auction

 
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman yesterday said Ice Edge Holdings officials in a U.S. Bankruptcy Court filing stated they "currently do not intend to participate" in tomorrow's auction for the Coyotes, leaving the NHL and RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie as the only remaining bidders for the club, according to Shoalts & Waldie of the GLOBE & MAIL. A source indicated that Ice Edge told the NHL that it would "not be participating in the auction because it would not be able to get a lease agreement" with Glendale for Jobing.com Arena "in time for the auction." Ice Edge had "not officially withdrawn its offer" by last night, and its $10M deposit was "still in place." Shoalts & Waldie note Ice Edge had "expressed confidence in court filings as recently as last Friday that it would be able to reach a deal with the city," but a source said that negotiations stalled yesterday after city officials "pushed to present an amended lease agreement to council for ratification." Ice Edge lawyers said that they "couldn't agree to the amended deal." While talks have "since resumed," sources indicated that it is "unlikely a lease will be in place" by tomorrow's auction. A possible option for Ice Edge is to "wait to see if the NHL buys the Coyotes," as the league has said that it will "immediately seek a buyer for the club." The bidding group also could "make an offer for another club," and sources said that it has been "approached by several other franchises about a potential sale." Meanwhile, Bettman yesterday also noted that the NHL "decided as early as June 24 to be prepared to make its own bid for the Coyotes," more than one month before team owners "voted to reject Balsillie as an owner" (GLOBE & MAIL, 9/9).

CAN YOU TAKE ME HIGHER? In Toronto, Kevin McGran reports Balsillie's new $242.5M offer for the Coyotes -- an increase of $30M that includes $50M to Glendale if the city would "drop its opposition" to the sale -- was "met with silence from politicians worried about losing the team." Glendale spokesperson Gary Husk in an e-mail said the city is "deferring to the court and the NHL to determine the merits of this and the other bids." City officials added that "any deal could only be ratified in a public meeting." Meanwhile, Balsillie's reps want Bankruptcy Court Judge Redfield Baum to "throw out the league's demand that a relocation fee would be close" to $190M, charging that the NHL "'misled' when it argued providing relocation input to Balsillie's camp would bog down the proceedings" (TORONTO STAR, 9/9). Also in Toronto, Damien Cox wrote the "unsaid issue behind the scene has been Balsillie's deep pockets and the limit, if there is one, to how much he might be willing to pay for the Coyotes in an open auction." Cox: "This is Jim Balsillie's trump card. And a measure of how much he wants this to happen" (THESTAR.com, 9/8). In Hamilton, Milton & Peters wrote Balsillie upping his offer for the Coyotes "offered a hint of what might be yet to come," and that "has to send a chill down the collective spine" of the NHL (HAMILTON SPECTATOR, 9/8).

HINDSIGHT IS 20-20: The NATIONAL POST's Bruce Arthur notes had Balsillie "not chosen this team, the Coyotes probably would have been peddled" to Bulls and White Sox Chair Jerry Reinsdorf and "then quietly moved." Had the NHL "simply admitted that one of its franchises was a failure and attempted to rectify it in good faith, then perhaps the opening for Balsillie would have been closed." Arthur: "But the NHL, piece by piece, has driven itself to the brink of this most remarkable bout of jeopardy" (NATIONAL POST, 9/9).

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