SBD/May 8, 2012/Franchises

NHL Reaches Tentative Deal To Sell Coyotes To Jamison, Keep Team In Glendale

NHL Commissioner is "cautiously optimistic" that Coyotes sale is nearing completion
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman last night said that the league "had reached a preliminary deal on terms" for the league to sell the Coyotes to former Sharks CEO Greg Jamison, according to Lisa Halverstadt of the ARIZONA REPUBLIC. Terms of the deal "still must be put to paper." The Glendale City Council also "must approve a new lease on the city-owned Jobing.com Arena," and the NHL BOG "must sign off on the sale," which could be in the $170M range. Bettman "would not confirm that figure" yesterday, but he said that he "was cautiously optimistic about the deal." Glendale City Manager Ed Beasley said that he "would expect a final deal to be presented to council within weeks." Jamison "became known for turning around the financially struggling" Sharks by emphasizing "community outreach and grass-roots efforts to draw fans." Bettman "acknowledged the strain that three years of league ownership placed on the franchise." He said he now sees "a light at the end of the tunnel." Bettman added that he "would expect the league to call a board-of-governors vote after Glendale approves an arena lease with Jamison." Beasley also "did not offer a specific date for an arena vote," but city council members have said that they "want to see an arena lease by the time they approve the coming year's budget on June 12" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 5/8). The GLOBE & MAIL's David Shoalts writes the biggest threat facing the deal is the "looming opposition from the Goldwater Institute, a conservative watchdog group which scuttled a previous bid on the grounds that Glendale would violate Arizona's laws against excessive public subsidies to private companies." The institute "is still battling the city in court over access to records related to the Coyotes sale." Sources said that the NHL and Glendale officials "believe their agreement with Jamison will comply with the gift clause in Arizona's constitution that limits public subsidies" (GLOBE & MAIL 5/8).

DON'T COUNT YOUR CHICKENS: ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun wrote, "What remains to be seen is if Jamison's bid won't fall apart when it's time for his investors to actually sign on the dotted line." LeBrun: "All signs point to his group being in line financially, but until that moment of truth, one doesn't fully know." The fact that Beasley was present at yesterday's news conference "is a good sign." Sources said that when the time comes to vote and pass the lease agreement at city hall, Jamison "has four of the required seven votes to get it through." LeBrun: "What remains to be seen is what kind of long-term commitment Jamison will ultimately give cash-strapped Glendale" (ESPN.com, 5/7). NBC's Jeremy Roenick, who played for the Coyotes from '96-'01 and '06-07, said Jamison has "his hands full in Phoenix," but he "couldn’t come into a better time to get involved in the Phoenix Coyotes with the way the Coyotes are playing right now." Roenick: "Hockey is buzzing in the Phoenix area right now. Now we have to make sure that they make this just as exciting for the regular season and the fans come out and support this team the way they’re doing in the playoffs. This is a great market ... (and) this team has a lot of promise” (“Coyotes-Predators,” NBC Sports Network, 5/7).

BUYER'S REMORSE? THE HOCKEY NEWS' Ken Campbell wrote, "There is speculation Jamison will not be required to sign an 'unconditional guarantee' attached to his ownership." An unconditional guarantee "basically ensures the owner will be obliged to continue to throw unlimited amounts of money into the sinkhole without leaving the NHL to become a ward of the state." While the deal will be announced at about $170M, Campbell cited a source as saying that it is "unlikely the actual money changing hands will amount to even $100 million." Campbell: "Isn’t it time that perhaps the NHL did the right thing here and stopped holding this city hostage?" Glendale "is in for $50 million so far and if Jamison gets his lease, will have to pay another $92 million over the next five years." However, there is "no guarantee from anyone the Coyotes will stay in Glendale long-term." Bettman is "capitalizing on a feel-good situation in Glendale, where the team is winning and creating a short-term buzz" (THEHOCKEYNEWS.com, 5/7).

FEELING LEFT OUT: In Toronto, Mark Zwolinski asks with a deal in place to keep the Coyotes in Glendale, "What is going to happen to that nice new arena being erected in Quebec City, and another one in the works for Markham?" It now "appears both cities will have to wait for the next NHL candidate for relocation." When asked what yesterday's news means for Quebec City, Bettman said, "We're not focused on any other place for the Coyotes other than Glendale" (TORONTO STAR, 5/8).
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