HAMILTON, Ont. – Mayor Fred Eisenberger says Hamilton’s efforts are focused on helping Jim Balsillie bring the Phoenix Coyotes to the city, and that he hopes to reach a deal with the co-CEO of BlackBerry maker Research In Motion for Copps Coliseum later this week.
Eisenberger, speaking on CTV’s Question Period on Sunday, made the comments amid a Hamilton Spectator report suggesting an investor group believed to be led by developer Tom Gaglardi was interested in moving the Atlanta Thrashers to Hamilton.
Eisenberger did not deny conversations with other groups, but said he had no plans for a face-to-face meeting this week with anyone other than Balsillie.
“We’ve had discussions with others, we’re going to leave it at that, but the primary person we’re dealing with right now and that we hope to put together an arrangement with for Copps Coliseum is Mr. Balsillie,” said Eisenberger. “That’s what we’re currently working on, that’s what we’ll continue to work on and we hope by the middle of the week sometime we’ll have something in place that will work for him and work for our city.”
Word of the reported Gaglardi bid added to the frenzy created when Balsillie made a US$212.5-million offer to buy the Coyotes, who have filed for bankruptcy protection, on Tuesday.
The NHL is disputing the team’s filing in a federal court of bankruptcy in Phoenix.
Representatives for Balsillie, meanwhile, met with Eisenberger on Thursday to discuss a possible deal to lease Copps Coliseum as a potential home for the team. Balsillie has asked the city to make a decision by May 13.
The Spectator report, posted to its website Saturday, said the second group was expected make its pitch as early as Monday.
“That wasn’t accurate, unfortunately. I did say I was going to communicate with others. I’m not having a personal meeting with anyone other than Mr. Balsillie’s group,” said Eisenberger. “Those discussions have been going on for quite sometime. I don’t know that they’re going to bear fruit in the near term but certainly right now we know Mr. Balsillie is in the throws of trying to secure a team and that’s the person we’re going to be dealing with.”
Gaglardi previously claimed to have been part of a bid to buy half of the Vancouver Canucks in 2004, but a B.C. lower court ruled against him and awarded the sale to Francesco Aquilini.