PHOENIX – A group led by Chicago Bulls and Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf has offered to buy the NHL’s Phoenix Coyotes for US$148 million and keep the team in Arizona.
The offer, submitted in bankruptcy court documents on Friday afternoon, is $64.5 million less than the bid by Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie, who wants to move the franchise to Hamilton.
Reinsdorf’s offer calls for a new Jobing.com Arena lease with the city of Glendale and unspecified new agreements with other creditors, including the NHL, which has been funding the club.
Friday was the deadline set by Judge Redfield T. Baum for potential buyers who would keep the team in Arizona to submit purchase applications to the NHL.
Reinsdorf and Phoenix lawyer John Kaites were listed in the court filing as the initial members of the proposed new ownership group, with Tony Taveras to become a member. The group said it would also have other equity investors as members.
According to a sale schedule adopted by Baum, Aug. 5 is the deadline for a sale to a local buyer. If that doesn’t happen, the judge set a “fallback” deadline of Sept. 10 to sell to someone who might relocate the team.
The proposal submitted Friday says Reinsdorf’s group would seek “modified or substitute agreements” with six parties, including Glendale and the NHL. It did not specify details of those agreements, but a new Jobing.com Arena lease is among its terms.
“Buyer expects to enter into a new arena management, use and lease agreement … with the city of Glendale,” the filing said, “And to satisfy amounts owed to the city of Glendale through such new agreements.”
There has been speculation that Glendale would be expected to heavily subsidize a new owner – claims disputed last week by Glendale city lawyer Craig Tindall.
After a hearing this week, Tindall said that the city has had “some very positive preliminary discussions” with Reinsdorf.
Glendale officials did not immediately return calls seeking comment.
The Coyotes have never had a profitable season since the franchise was moved from Winnipeg in 1996. Court documents say the team has lost $74 million in the past two years. Last fall, Forbes magazine listed the Coyotes as the NHL’s least valuable franchise, worth $142 million.
Owner Jerry Moyes filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on May 5, to the surprise of the league. Moyes’ filing included plans to sell the team to Balsillie, who has failed in previous attempts to buy the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins and Nashville Predators.
“We’ve just received the new offer. We will need time to study it,” said Bill Walker, a spokesman for Balsillie. “But we wish Mr. Reinsdorf well, he is a fine professional sports owner.
“Jim Balsillie’s effort to purchase the Coyotes and relocate the team to Hamilton continues.”
The NHL has fiercely opposed Balsillie’s effort to buy and move the Coyotes.
An NHL spokesman said league officials were tied up on the draft Friday afternoon and would have no comment on Reinsdorf’s offer.