Angered by the Phoenix Coyotes’ bankruptcy filing, the NHL stripped owner Jerry Moyes of the authority to run the club.
A few hours after Moyes announced on Tuesday that the team had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, a move that could allow the cash-strapped team to be sold and moved to Ontario, the NHL said it would represent the team in bankruptcy court.
“We have just become aware of today’s bankruptcy court filing purportedly made on behalf of the Phoenix Coyotes,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said in a statement. “We are investigating the circumstances surrounding the petition, including the propriety of its filing.
“We have removed Jerry Moyes from all positions of authority to act for or on behalf of the club. The league will appear and proceed before the bankruptcy court in the best interests of all of the club’s constituencies, including its fans in Arizona and the league’s 29 other member clubs.”
Earlier, BlackBerry boss Jim Balsillie announced a plan to buy the Coyotes and move them to Ontario.
The co-CEO of BlackBerry maker Research In Motion said that his $212.5 million offer was conditional on the Coyotes relocating to Canada, where they existed as the Winnipeg Jets before moving to Phoenix for the 1996-97 season.
The team’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing included the proposed sale of the team to PSE Sports and Entertainment, LP, which would move the franchise to southern Ontario.
“Extensive efforts have been undertaken to sell the team, or attract additional investors, who would keep the team in Glendale,” Moyes, the Coyotes chief executive officer, said in a statement announcing the Chapter 11 filing.“Creating a process under the supervision of a judge assures that anyone wishing to purchase the team will have the opportunity to bid.
“Likewise, the City of Glendale, which has been very cooperative with efforts to keep the team in Glendale, will be able to provide potential buyers assurances of the city’s willingness to offer incentives to keep the team as a tenant in the Jobing.com arena, the lease for which is subject to rejection in bankruptcy. The process assures that the identities of the new owner and the team’s location will be known by June 30, 2009, thus enabling the NHL to include the team in its 2009-10 schedule.”
There was confusion last week when the Glendale city manager said the NHL was in charge of the team. Coyotes president Doug Moss rejected that report.
Citing Glendale records, the Arizona Republic newspaper reported that the Coyotes stopped paying rent to Glendale, parking fees and most of its security costs at Jobing.com Arena in August. The paper also said the city was paid nearly $351,000 for past rent on Feb. 25, the day after the NHL agreed to loan the team an unspecified amount.
As part of the loan agreement, the league had the right to take over the franchise if the loan was not paid, the paper said.
Balsillie made a well-publicized attempt to purchase and move the Nashville Predators to Hamilton in 2007. The deal fell through, with speculation that some in the NHL did not like Balsillie’s insistence that the team be moved to Canada.
He also failed in a bid to buy the Pittsburgh Penguins.
“The current team ownership asked that I table an offer to purchase the Coyotes and significant discussions resulted in an offer that is in the best interests of the franchise, the NHL, and the great hockey fans of Canada and southern Ontario,” Balsillie said in a statement.
At the request of the Coyotes ownership, Balsillie said he has also agreed to provide $17 million in financing to allow the franchise to keep going in advance of the sale.
Balsillie’s offer does not guarantee that the Coyotes will move.
“If others want to come in and there’s an offer that is deemed better by the courts, then ultimately that would be a court decision,” said Steve Roman, a spokesman for Moyes. “As I understand it, the hope and the plan is that all of this would be dealt with by June 30, 2009. You have a person who has a purchase agreement, but at the same time there could be other players who want to get involved.”
In March, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said the Coyotes were actively seeking investors or possibly new ownership, but reiterated that the team won’t be relocated.