SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Greg Jamison has missed his deadline to buy the Phoenix Coyotes before a lease agreement with the City of Glendale expires.
The former CEO of the San Jose Sharks had until midnight Thursday to buy the team from the NHL under the terms of the lease agreement with Glendale, but was unable to get the money or investors he needed in time to hit the deadline.
“We will not be able to complete our purchase of the Phoenix Coyotes today in time to meet our deadline with the city of Glendale,” Jamison said in a statement. “However, our journey to purchase the Coyotes will continue. We realize this will require additional conversations with the city of Glendale and the NHL. We still believe we can reach an agreement that satisfies everyone. We hope negotiations with the city proceed as smoothly as possible, as everyone involved wants the Coyotes to remain in Arizona.”
Jamison had emerged as the latest and arguably best chance for the Coyotes to land an owner after more than three years of being run by the league. He reached a 20-year, $308 million lease agreement with Glendale for Jobing.com Arena in the fall, creating what was believed to be a clear path to ending the Coyotes’ up-and-down ownership saga.
Instead, the uncertainty with the franchise will continue with still no end in sight.
“To the Arizona’s sports and hockey fans, and the City of Glendale, we appreciate your patience and diligence,” Jamison said. “We wish everything was completed today as we worked extremely hard on the deal. However, we have taken significant steps to keep the Coyotes in Glendale for the long-term. I’ve seen first-hand the wonderful support Arizona hockey fans have provided the Coyotes and we will continue our efforts to keep the NHL in Arizona.”
Coyotes president and chief operating officer Mike Nealy said that it will be business as usual for the club while the ownership situation plays out.
“Mr. Jamison will continue to work with the NHL and the City of Glendale to close a deal that will keep the Coyotes in the Valley,” Nealy said in a statement. “Although there is no set timetable, hopefully it will be soon. The Coyotes will continue to be owned by the NHL and nothing changes for our organization.”
Added NHL deupty commissioner Bill Daly in a statement: “We remain hopeful the Coyotes sale process will be resolved successfully and we will continue to work with the City of Glendale to move the process forward.”
The latest twist in the Coyotes’ search for an owner leaves open the possibility that new bidders could give Jamison competition to buy the team.
To the Coyotes players and coaches, it came as no surprise after years of watching stops and starts in the process.
“Obviously, it’s a frustrating time, but we have no control over it,” Coyotes goalie Mike Smith said. “It’s something we can’t really solve, otherwise we’d buy the team if we could. We’ve just got to worry about winning hockey games and playing to the best of our abilities, and hopefully it’ll work itself out.”
The ownership dilemma started in 2009, when former owner Jerry Moyes took the team into bankruptcy in a bid to sell to Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie, who would move the franchise to Hamilton, Ontario. The NHL vehemently opposed that plan and a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge later refused to allow the sale to go through.
With no one else stepping forward, the NHL bought the team and started running it with the intention of finding a buyer who would keep the team in Arizona. It’s been a drawn-out process filled with false starts and dashed hopes.
The league thought it had an owner in place when Chicago businessman Matthew Hulsizer stepped forward, but his bid fell through when the conservative watchdog group Goldwater Institute inserted itself into the process and warned potential bond buyers to stay away from the Glendale offering because of a looming lawsuit.
Amid speculation that the Coyotes would return to Winnipeg, where the franchise relocated from in 1996, Jamison came forward as a potential buyer last year.
The NHL announced during last year’s playoffs that it had a preliminary agreement to sell the team to Jamison and he later worked out a lease agreement with Glendale for Jobing.com Arena despite opposition from Goldwater.
Jamison’s bid to buy the team cleared a big hurdle when Glendale voters in November’s election upheld a 0.7 per cent sales tax increase designed to help the city’s finances. He also reworked the lease agreement with the city, setting a Jan. 31 deadline for Jamison to purchase the team from the NHL.
But Jamison may have been hurt by the 113-day NHL lockout and was unable to secure the finances he needed to finish off the deal in time.
And so the wait for an owner continues.
“We’ll just kind of move on with what we need to do on the ice,” Coyotes forward Raffi Torres said. “We’re not really worried with what’s going on off the ice right now.”
They’ve had plenty of practice at it by now.