PHOENIX – A bankruptcy judge has moved the local auction of the Phoenix Coyotes from Wednesday to Sept. 10.
The question is whether Jerry Reinsdorf’s US$148 million bid will still be on the table then.
After Judge Redfield T. Baum postponed the sale date on Monday, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly worried that Reinsdorf may be wavering in his effort to buy the financially ailing franchise amid repeated challenges by Coyotes owner Jerry Moyes and Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie, who wants to move the team to Hamilton.
“I think from time to time, (Reinsdorf has) become very frustrated with the process,” Daly told reporters outside the courthouse. “He feels like he’s being fought at every turn, and he’s already invested a lot of money in this. At some point, we’re concerned that he may just reach a decision that it’s not worth all the time and money and effort when he’s getting resisted as strongly as he is by Mr. Moyes and Mr. Balsillie.”
Reinsdorf’s lawyer declined to speak to reporters after the hearing.
Reinsdorf’s frustration apparently grew when Moyes’ lawyer, in court filings, revealed details of Reinsdorf’s negotiations with the city of Glendale, Ariz., on a possible new lease for Jobing.com Arena.
Reinsdorf has asked for a special taxing district to be created near the arena that would pay the new owners as much as $23 million next year, according to documents obtained by The Arizona Republic. And if the team were still losing money after five years, Glendale would have to pay Reinsdorf $15 million for each year of losses or allow the team to be sold and moved without penalty, according to the newspaper.
The documents have since been removed from public.
There is no indication that Glendale officials have agreed to those financial incentives, although Glendale lawyers said in court documents last week that the city was “very close to a definitive agreement” that would include “strong economic essentials.”
The Coyotes have never made a profit since moving from Winnipeg in 1996.
On Monday, Glendale lawyers raised the possibility that the disclosures about the negotiations would chill local offers.
“The Reinsdorf group is rightfully upset because the terms with Glendale concern economic issues which it is seeking to resolve in making its bid,” the city’s lawyers said in court filings. “If the bidders walk away from this Glendale sale process, the damage caused by the disclosure will be staggering for Glendale.”
In court, Glendale’s lawyers said, “Our challenge, frankly, is having a bidder with us” on Sept. 10.
The complicated sale has been conducted on two tracks, with different deadlines for bidders who would keep the team in Arizona and those who want to move it. But Baum is considering combining the bids in one auction. Sept. 10 was originally the date for relocation offers.
Baum granted the delay at the NHL’s request so local bidders would have more time to finalize their offers, and he brushed aside arguments over the merits of Reinsdorf’s offer.
“All we’re talking about today is the ‘when,”‘ Baum said. “We’re not talking about the merits.”
“There’s no assurance there’s going to be a sale approved to anybody,” Baum said.
Another local offer is being prepared by Ice Edge Holdings.
Balsillie has offered $212.5 million to move the team to Hamilton.
The NHL’s board of governors last week unanimously rejected Balsillie’s ownership application while approving Reinsdorf’s.
Balsillie maintains that the team could move to Canada for the upcoming season – a possibility dismissed by league lawyers in court on Monday. The Coyotes are scheduled to open their exhibition season five days after the new auction date.