RIM CEO Balsillie puts in offer on Coyotes

TSN.ca Staff
5/6/2009 11:59:45 AM
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Jim Balsillie has put in an offer on the Phoenix Coyotes.

The Research in Motion co-CEO made his intentions known in a media release on Tuesday which confirmed that a $212.5 million (US) offer was on the table to purchase the team. One condition of the purchase was that Balsillie would relocate the franchise to an unspecified region in Southern Ontario.

"The current team ownership asked that I table an offer to purchase the Coyotes and significant discussions resulted in an offer that is in the best interests of the franchise, the NHL, and the great hockey fans of Canada and Southern Ontario," Balsillie said in the release.

"I am excited to move closer to bringing an NHL franchise to what I believe is one of the best un-served hockey markets in the world, Southern Ontario. A market with devoted hockey fans, a rich hockey history, a growing and diversified economy and a population of more than 7 million people," he said.

The release also says, Balsillie agreed to post debtor-in-possession financing of $17 million (US) at the request of the Coyotes franchise. The money will keep the franchise going before the sale is completed.

Balsillie re-iterated his desire to purchase the Coyotes at a hastily called press conference at the Metro Toronto Covention Centre Tuesday night where the Blackberry billionaire was attending a business awards banquet.

"This is a very clear and serious offer, and I'm excited and delighted to make this offer and try to bring a seventh team to Canada for hockey fans in an un-served market of Southern Ontario," Balsillie told reporters.

The Arizona Republic reported that the Coyotes filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Tuesday. Coyotes' CEO Jerry Moyes stated that they have done everything they can to try and keep the team in Arizona.

"Extensive efforts have been undertaken to sell the team, or attract additional investors, who would keep the team in Glendale," Moyes told the Republic.

The city of Glendale, where the Coyotes play at the Jobbing.com Arena, released a statement of their own Tuesday expressing disappointment that the team has filed for bankruptcy, stating they remain hopeful that a way can be found to keep the team in Arizona.

"The decision by the ownership of the Phoenix Coyotes to initiate bankruptcy proceedings without consultation or approval of the National Hockey League is an unfortunate turn of events for the NHL, the State of Arizona and the Coyotes' loyal fans.  Even as the propriety of this unprecedented action is being thoroughly investigated by the NHL, city officials are working diligently to ensure that the public's interest is fully protected throughout this process.

The City appreciates the decision by the NHL to assume control of the Coyotes and we are confident that every effort will be made to honour all contractual commitments. It is our hope that the NHL action will provide immediate stability to the franchise and allow the Coyotes to remain an important part of the Arizona community."

During his five-minute press conference in Toronto, Balsillie also stated how encouraged he was by the support he has received for a website that he has set up called makeitseven.ca, a website dedicated to bringing a seventh team to Canada.

"I've just been told we've been overwhelmingly flooded with thousands and thousands of people registering comment just in the past hour," Balsillie stated.

Much like Balsillie's previous attempts to purchase an existing franchise, the NHL is once again concerned with the provision in Balsillie's offer that states the deal hinges on the condition the team can be relocated to Southern Ontario.

Sources tell TSN that the NHL is not happy with what is perceived by the league as a powerplay by Balsillie and will wrestle with this matter in court.

Those proceedings are expected to begin on Thursday.

After learning of the purchase on Tuesday, the NHL's deputy commissioner Bill Daly released the following statement:

"We have just become aware of today's Bankruptcy Court filing purportedly made on behalf of the Phoenix Coyotes.  We are investigating the circumstances surrounding the petition, including the propriety of its filing.  We have removed Jerry Moyes from all positions of authority to act for or on behalf of the Club.  The League will appear and proceed before the Bankruptcy Court in the best interests of all of the Club's constituencies, including its fans in Arizona and the League's 29 other Member Clubs."

While Balsillie's offer appears solid, it does not guarantee that the Coyotes are on the move.

"If others want to come in and there's an offer that is deemed better by the courts, then ultimately that would be a court decision," Steve Roman, a spokesman for Moyes told the ASSOCIATED PRESS. "As I understand it, the hope and the plan is that all of this would be dealt with by June 30, 2009. You have a person who has a purchase agreement, but at the same time there could be other players who want to get involved."

This is not the first time that Balsillie has drawn the league's ire when by attempted to bring a team to the Golden Horseshoe.

In 2007 Balsillie attempted to purchase the Nashville Predators in an effort to re-locate the team to Hamilton, and even gave fans the opportunity to put a down payment on season tickets.  The deal fell through leading to speculation that the league was not interested in Balsillie attempting to move a team before he actually owned them. 

These new details come on the heels of a series of confusing reports last week that the NHL was in charge of the Coyotes, a report Coyotes president Doug Moss refuted.  The league did not release a comment.

In addition there seems to be a growing sentiment of bringing a second team to the Southern, Ontario region, recently deputy commissioner Bill Daly met with a group who are attempting to bring a second team to the Greater Toronto area.  According to a release by the NHL following that meeting, that is not on the league's agenda.

"There is no consideration of bringing a second franchise to Toronto. We have no intention to expand in the foreseeable future, and there is no desire to relocate any of our existing franchises."

If Balsillie is successful in bringing the Coyotes to Canada it would mean that the franchise has come nearly full circle after the team was forced to relocate to the desert from Winnipeg in 1996.


Jim Balsillie (Photo: The Canadian Press)


(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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