Jim Neveau, Coyotes Correspondent
Matthew Hulsizer, the owner of Chicago-based Peak6 Investments, has tweaked his offer to the NHL in his attempt to buy the Phoenix Coyotes, according to reports surfacing yesterday. While specifics of the deal have not been made public as of yet, they have been discussed with the city of Glendale, according to Lisa Halverstadt of the Arizona Republic.
A deal to purchase the Coyotes was agreed to way back in December by the city of Glendale, but the watchdog group Goldwater Institute blocked it, saying that it violated the “gift clause” provision of the state constitution. They threatened legal action if the deal was put into place, which would have sold bonds in order to help fund the sale from the NHL. It appeared as though things had hit a wall, as Hulsizer said that he had made his best offer, but the city decided to give the NHL another $25 million to cover losses for another season as it continued to seek a buyer.
With this new offer, it appears as though Hulsizer is still committed to keeping the franchise in Arizona long-term, but it will still need to be seen if Goldwater will go along with the deal and whether the league will accept it. They may be in a slightly better position to accept a proposal that doesn’t involve them being reimbursed for all of their losses while running the franchise, considering that they reportedly received a $60 million transfer fee in the purchase of the Atlanta Thrashers by Winnipeg-based True North. This could give them a little wiggle room financially to make a deal that involves some loss, but any transaction still needs to be approved by the Board of Governors, and they may not take too kindly to commissioner Gary Bettman going back on his word that the league would not take a loss in the Coyotes sale.
More details will likely emerge from a closed door meeting between Hulsizer and the City Council, which will take place on June 21st according to Councilman Phil Lieberman. Halverstadt’s piece also made mention of potential other buyers, and while none have surfaced so far, they will by the date of this meeting. Glendale could be looking at these other buyers since Hulsizer seems insistent on using city money to help finance the sale, but with Ice Edge Holdings dropping out of the proceedings and Jerry Reinsdorf not seeming interested any longer, it would certainly be a bidder we haven’t heard about yet if there is a new one jumping in.
Another interesting wrinkle in the Coyotes saga occurred earlier this week, when reports surfaced that Jim Balsillie, CEO of Research in Motion, could potentially still acquire an NHL franchise. If you’ll recall, Balsillie was the man who tried to circumvent league rules and purchase the Coyotes through a bankruptcy court in order to move them to Hamilton, Ontario. The league didn’t take too kindly to this, and ended up winning a court decision in their favor to purchase the team and keep their rules on ownership in place.
Deputy commissioner Bill Daly denied the reports that Balsillie has been told that he could still be a candidate for ownership.
While Balsillie isn’t going to be getting involved in the ownership situation, things seem to be progressing very slowly even without the billionaire involved. Fans are waiting with bated breath to see if Hulsizer is going to sweeten the pot once again to get a deal done, and while there’s no guarantee that the offer will be good enough to pass muster, at least the city bought itself another year to try to figure something out. Now the only question is whether or not that will be good enough to prevent the league from moving this team after the 2011-12 season. Folks in Phoenix will simply have to wait to find out.