PHOENIX – A person close to the situation says Chicago businessman Matthew Hulsizer is out as a potential buyer of the financially troubled Phoenix Coyotes.
The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the matter, said Monday night that Hulsizer has withdrawn for good from talks with the city of Glendale over a new lease.
Hulsizer’s decision leaves no publicly identified potential buyer for the franchise, which was purchased by the NHL out of bankruptcy in the fall of 2009.
However, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said there are others in line to try to buy the team.
“There are ongoing negotiations,” Daly said in an email to The Associated Press. “While it is unfortunate that Matt has decided to go in a different direction, the city of Glendale has chosen to pursue an alternative structure with one or more potentially interested purchasers. We do not view this as a step backwards in the process. The situation has been moving in this direction for quite some time now.”
Glendale recently committed US$25 million for the second year in a row to keep the team playing at Jobing.com Arena for the upcoming season.
The Phoenix Business Journal first reported that Hulsizer had pulled out of the Coyotes deal.
Two representatives of the city of Glendale didn’t immediately return calls seeking comment.
The withdrawal is the latest twist in a complicated saga that began when then-owner Jerry Moyes took the franchise into bankruptcy in May 2009 with a scheme to sell to Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie, who would move the team to Hamilton.
That plan fell apart under legal challenge from the NHL, which wound up being the only bidder for the team. The club has struggled mightily financially since it was moved from Winnipeg in 1996.
Hulsizer eventually emerged as the leading candidate to buy the team and in prolonged talks hammered out a lease agreement that would have the city paying $100 million to the new owner for parking rights and arena operation. The Goldwater Institute inserted itself into the debate and issued a series of caustic news releases and comments from its executive director Darcy Olsen.
The institute went so far as to warn potential bond buyers to stay away from the Glendale offering because of the looming lawsuit. Sen. John McCain has repeatedly criticized the institute for its actions.
When the playoffs began, Hulsizer repeated his interest in buying the team, attending the final game of the team’s first-round playoff series against Detroit.
There was speculation that the city might go back to Chicago sports mogul Jerry Reinsdorf, an early candidate to buy the team. Reinsdorf’s Chicago White Sox share a spring training facility with the Los Angeles Dodgers in Glendale.
The NHL has steadfastly insisted it wants a buyer who would keep the team in Glendale. There was widespread speculation that the franchise was on its way to Winnipeg. Instead, the Atlanta Thrashers were sold and have shifted to Winnipeg while Glendale committed a second $25 million to cover anticipated losses for another season.
Meanwhile, Coyotes general manager Don Maloney and coach Dave Tippett have put together teams that made the playoffs each of the past two seasons.
AP Hockey Writer Ira Podell contributed to this report.