MLSE president won’t be questioned in sale of Phoenix Coyotes

PHOENIX – Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment president Richard Peddie will not have to answer questions in the court fight over the sale of the Phoenix Coyotes.

Lawyers for Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie and Coyotes owner Jerry Moyes had wanted to question Peddie over what role the Toronto Maple Leafs might play in the proposed relocation of the Coyotes to Hamilton.

U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Redfield T. Baum denied that request on Thursday in an order naming officials who will give depositions in the complicated Chapter 11 bankruptcy case.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly – who have already been deposed once – will answer questions, as will Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs and Minnesota Wild owner Craig Leipold. Balsillie also will be deposed, along with his lawyer Richard Rodier and Moyes.

The judge also authorized a deposition from “an unnamed, but to be disclosed, NHL representative regarding the impossibility of relocating the Coyotes for the current season.”

Balsillie has offered US$212.5 million to buy the team contingent on moving it to Hamilton for the coming season, but he has indicated he would withdraw his bid if he can’t move the team immediately.

Meanwhile, Baum ordered the NHL, over the league’s objections, to provide numerous documents related to relocation – material that Balsillie’s lawyers say is necessary for his bid to proceed.

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Baum said the league must produce any NHL study of expansion into the Hamilton market in the past 10 years, and it must disclose all expansion and relocation fees it has charged since 1999.

The league contends the relocation issue is moot because its board of governors rejected Balsillie as an owner.

Meanwhile, the judge set up bid procedures and a schedule leading up to the Sept. 10 auction. Friday is the deadline for applications from bidders to keep the team in Glendale.

The NHL wants to find an owner to keep the team in Arizona, where it has lost tens of millions of dollars in recent years. A group headed by Jerry Reinsdorf has bid $148 million and is working on an agreement with the city of Glendale for new terms on a lease.

Ice Edge Holdings has also been preparing a bid to keep the team in Glendale.

In a separate order on Thursday, Baum denied a motion by the Goldwater Institute, on behalf of eight Glendale taxpayers, to file a conditional bid objection.

The Goldwater Institute had argued that the taxpayers have a right to know the details of Glendale’s arena lease renegotiations with Reinsdorf’s group, but Baum ruled that they “do not have a direct financial stake in the outcome of this case.