SBD/Issue 64/Franchises

NHL Inks Letter Of Intent To Sell Coyotes To Ice Edge Holdings

Ice Edge Has Said It Plans To Keep Coyotes
In Glendale, But Play Five Games In Canada
The NHL has “signed a letter of intent to sell” the Coyotes to Ice Edge Holdings, which said that it “plans to remain in Glendale but wants to be able to play five home games annually in Canada,” according to Carrie Watters of the ARIZONA REPUBLIC. Sources said that Ice Edge is “expected to pay the league in the $140[M] range, about the amount the NHL spent” to purchase the team out of bankruptcy in November. Ice Edge officials said that they “have an agreement in principle with Glendale,” which owns Jobing.com Arena. The team has “more than two decades remaining on its lease, which Ice Edge has said it does not plan to break.” The group has said that it “would propose to play five home games in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.” They said that the games would be “non-playoff games and a way to generate more revenue.” Ice Edge will have five majority owners: Chair Keith McCullough, CEO Anthony LeBlanc, COO Daryl Jones, CFO Todd Jordan and former Coyotes investor John Breslow. Jones said that he “hoped to close the deal within the next few months” (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 12/12). Jones: “This is huge progress. Six months ago I never would have thought we’d get to this point.” He added, “We believe that hockey can thrive in Phoenix and look forward to proving that” (GLOBE & MAIL, 12/12). LeBlanc noted, “We do not have an escape clause. We’re here for the long run.” He added, “Hockey is in our blood. We’re about as passionate as you can get when it comes to the sport of hockey” (AZCENTRAL.com, 12/12).

WILL DEAL GET DONE? ESPN.com’s Pierre LeBrun wrote while some NHL governors are “relieved there’s finally a buyer, others are skeptical that the Ice Edge group has the financial wherewithal to pull this off.” One governor said, “Unless I am presented with evidence to show me the contrary in terms of their finances, I’m probably going to vote against it.” However, another governor said, “This is great news; this is a blessing. I mean, what’s the alternative, the league continuing to run the team? These Ice Edge guys have said and done all the right things so far. I’m OK with them.” Jones said, “Our financing is the least of our worries. We feel like we have more than enough money to do it.” LeBrun noted Ice Edge “plans to reach out to Wayne Gretzky as early as this weekend to see whether” the former Coyotes Managing Partner and coach “wants to be part of their ownership group or managing structure once/if the purchase of the team is completed” (ESPN.com, 12/13).

VICTORY FOR BETTMAN: In Toronto, Damien Cox wrote if the deal gets done, it “would mean vindication” for NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, who “always vowed to keep the team in Phoenix and fought a pitched battle in bankruptcy court against” RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie’s attempt to move the team to Hamilton. Cox: “Even if sold, the Coyotes won’t be making money any time soon. Maybe not ever. But they’ll still be in Arizona, which is what Bettman fought for all along” (TORONTO STAR, 12/12). YAHOO SPORTS’ Greg Wyshynski wrote the NHL “has now spent time and treasure for the better part of 2009 propping up the team and extending its stay in the desert.” If “conditions don’t improve under Ice Edge, it’s hard to envision the league doing it again” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 12/12).

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