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Volume 26 No. 51
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NHL, BOG Approve Coyotes Sale To Entrepreneur Alex Meruelo

The NHL BOG "unanimously approved billionaire entrepreneur Alex Meruelo to purchase a majority share" of the Coyotes, with the sale expected to be "finalized in July," according to Richard Morin of the ARIZONA REPUBLIC. Sources said that Meruelo’s focus will "remain on securing a permanent future in Arizona for the franchise." NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said Meruelo is "committed" to finding a new arena in Arizona, adding that Gila River Arena in Glendale is "not viable long-term" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 6/20). The AP's Greg Beacham noted although the Coyotes "couldn't leave Arizona anytime soon due to NHL rules prohibiting new owners from immediately applying for relocation, Bettman pointedly didn't rule out the long-term possibility." Bettman said Meruelo "wants to make it work" in Arizona, and he is "going to try very hard for that to be the case" (AP, 6/19).

TO THE RESCUE: In Las Vegas, Ben Gotz notes Meruelo has "acquired failing companies and fixed them in the past, a formula he used for the Grand Sierra Resort and the SLS Las Vegas." Now the NHL is "betting on him being able to provide" a new arena for the Coyotes and "stabilize the franchise" (REVIEWJOURNAL.com, 6/19). THE HOCKEY NEWS' Ken Campbell noted one thing "working in the Coyotes’ favor in all of this is their lease" with Gila River Arena. It "runs on a season-to-season basis and all the Coyotes have to do in order to renew it is state their intentions" by Dec. 31, something they "could do in perpetuity because the arena is operated by AEG," which owns the NHL Kings. AEG is "more than happy to continue to accommodate its league partner until such time as the Coyotes tell them they are leaving." So, if Meruelo is "successful in securing an arena deal, extricating the Coyotes from their Glendale obligations will not be difficult" (THEHOCKEYNEWS.com, 6/19).