SBD/March 9, 2011/Franchises

Bettman Blames Goldwater Institute For Delaying Coyotes Sale

Bettman has not set a deadline for Coyotes deal, but says time is running out

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman "laid blame Tuesday evening on the shoulders" of the Goldwater Institute for the delay of the Coyotes sale to Matthew Hulsizer, according to Rebekah Sanders of the ARIZONA REBUPLIC. Bettman, speaking before last night's Canucks-Coyotes game, said that the conservative watchdog group "had obstructed Glendale by threatening to sue to block a deal that would keep" the team at Jobing.com Arena. Bettman: "It's time for Goldwater to stand down. In light of their conduct in this matter, I question whether this is really an organization concerned with the public interest." He added that the league "continues to support the city's deal" with Hulsizer. Bettman: "Our commitment remains as strong as ever. But time is running out." Bettman arrived in the region Tuesday morning "to meet with city and team officials and extend an invitation to Goldwater." But he said that the institute "refused to meet with him unless reporters were invited" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 3/9). Glendale must sell $116M in bonds to "provide Hulsizer with money to complete the transaction," and Bettman said that the bonds "remain the one obstacle left to be cleared." Bettman: "Based on what we have been told by the bond underwriters, the market for these bonds -- solely because of the Goldwater threat -- has been impacted" (ESPN.com, 3/8). More Bettman: "To have some private organization ... be able to frustrate the will of the elected representatives of Glendale is amazing to me without doing anything but casting aspersions and suggesting something might be illegal without doing anything to enforce it. I don't get how the Goldwater Institute can be this obstructionist" (FS Arizona, 3/8). He added, "I believe with proper ownership this franchise will be fine. I think we have the right owner and the right circumstances in place" (VANCOUVER PROVINCE, 3/9). Bettman yesterday met with Coyotes employees, coaches and a few players to "discuss the team's future" (AZCENTRAL.com, 3/8). Watch Bettman's press conference last night at Jobing.com Arena.

A DEAL'S A DEAL: Hulsizer, responding to a report that a "last-ditch effort to save the sale of the Coyotes is in the works," said that he "will not change the agreement he has with the City of Glendale as part of any 11th-hour attempt to keep" the team from moving. Hulsizer in an e-mail said, "I am prepared to honor my deal, which is lawful. It's a free market, so if someone else wants to step in they should." He added that he is "unaware of any plans by the NHL to reduce its price for the Coyotes or for Glendale to cut the bond issue." Hulsizer: "I wouldn't pay more and shouldn't. I don't know why the NHL would cut its price. I don't know about Glendale cutting the bond offering" (Shoalts & Sekeres, GLOBE & MAIL, 3/9). In the original report, the PHOENIX BUSINESS JOURNAL's Mike Sunnucks cited sources as saying that a "last-ditch plan" could include "reducing the amount of City of Glendale bonds for Hulsizer and the Coyotes from $100 million down to $70 million." It also could include having the NHL "discount its estimated $170 million asking price," and asking Hulsizer to "contribute more than the current estimated $70 million he is putting into the transaction" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 3/8).

CLOCK IS TICKING: Sources said that Hulsizer "might have until May to try to work out his purchase of the team from the NHL." Other reports have stated that the process "could take until June." May is when the league "needs to figure out whether to schedule games for Glendale’s Jobing.com Arena or the MTS Centre in Winnipeg, Manitoba, where the Coyotes likely will go if the Hulsizer sale fails" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 3/8). Bettman said, "We're hanging in there. Our commitment is as strong as ever. But time is running out, and if something doesn't happen, we're going to be close to the end. The bonds need to get sold. It's as simple as that" ("NHL On The Fly," NHL Network, 3/8). He added prior to last night's game, "We have options. But I'm not going to discuss what those options are. The options we're going to continue to pursue are here. We are obviously aware of the interest in Winnipeg. We are greatly appreciative of that interest, but I don't want to say or do anything that raises expectations. I don't think that's fair. We're not giving up" (WINNIPEG SUN, 3/9). GLOBE & MAIL reporters debate whether Winnipeg is a viable NHL market (GLOBE & MAIL, 3/7). 

IN A TOUGH SPOT: The GLOBE & MAIL's Stephen Brunt writes Bettman "looked weak Tuesday." He looked like someone who was "playing his last card, trying to save face, trying to set up a future speech in which he can claim he did everything he could to keep the Coyotes right where they were." But it "isn't public relations that ought to be his concern right now." Brunt: "The folks Bettman will have sway with his great powers of persuasion are his employers, the owners. He needs to come up with a story to explain how, following the Coyotes bankruptcy, the Jim Balsillie incursion, the season of league ownership, the accumulation of losses, and the revelation of Hulsizer as saviour thanks to that remarkably generous offer from Glendale, the whole thing could hit the rocks because a small band of true believers sent out a few letters and press releases, filed some access to information requests, wouldn’t promise not to sue, and refused to be bullied off their position" (GLOBE & MAIL, 3/9).

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