IceArizona completes purchase of Coyotes

The Phoenix Coyotes spent four years looking over their
shoulders as numerous potential owners came forward then fell
away.

Rumors of relocation cropped up, the team supposedly headed back
to Winnipeg, where it originated, or to someplace new like
Seattle.

Finally, after all the fits and starts, distractions and
innuendo, the Coyotes finally have an owner – and a home.

IceArizona completed its purchase of the franchise from the NHL
on Monday and received approval from the league’s Board of
Governors, keeping the Coyotes in the desert for the foreseeable
future.

Completion of the sale triggers a $225 million lease agreement
for Jobing.com Arena reached last month by the city of Glendale and
Renaissance Sports and Entertainment, managing partner of
IceArizona,

”I’m ecstatic,” new Coyotes chairman and governor George
Gosbee said on a conference call. ”It was a complicated
transaction, probably one of the most complicated transactions I’ve
worked on in 21 years in the financial business, but a lot of hard
of work and support kept us going through the process. Now we can
start focusing on what matters and that’s building a winning
organization here in the Valley.”

The Coyotes have been operated by the league since former owner
Jerry Moyes took the franchise into bankruptcy in 2009.

The team handled the off-ice distractions the first three years
by reaching the playoffs, including the franchise’s first NHL
division title and appearance in the Western Conference finals in
2011-12. A looming resolution to the saga – the NHL was likely
going to move the franchise if the RSE deal fell through – finally
took its toll last season, when the Coyotes finished four points
out of the West’s final playoff spot.

RSE, headed by Gosbee and Anthony LeBlanc, will finally give the
franchise some much-needed stability and allow it to compete on
even financial ground with the rest of the league.

”The National Hockey League believes in Arizona as an NHL
market and that these new owners can provide the Coyotes the
opportunity to secure a stable, long-term future in Glendale,”
Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement.

The ownership saga started when Moyes took the team into
bankruptcy in a failed attempt to sell it to Blackberry founder Jim
Balsillie, who would have moved the franchise to Hamilton, Ontario.
The NHL and Glendale fought the plan in court and the team was sold
to the league later that year.

The Coyotes appeared to have an owner in place when Chicago
businessman Matthew Hulsizer was set to buy the team two years ago,
but his bid was thwarted by the conservative watchdog group
Goldwater Institute, which warned potential bond buyers to stay
away from Glendale’s proposed arena deal because of a looming
lawsuit.

A group headed by former San Jose Sharks CEO Greg Jamison
reached an agreement with the NHL to buy the team last year, but
his deal fell apart when he was unable to secure finances before a
lease-agreement deadline with Glendale in January.

RSE went through contentious negotiations with Glendale on a
lease agreement before the City Council approved it in a special
session on July 3. The deal was spurred by RSE’s partnership with
Global Spectrum, which owns the Philadelphia Flyers and manages 113
facilities around the world.

The lease agreement went into effect with Monday’s sale of the
team and approval by the Board of Governors.

”The reality is we’ve always believed in the market, we’ve
always believed in the opportunity,” said LeBlanc, the Coyotes’
new alternate governor who was part of an early attempt to purchase
the franchise.

RSE’s involvement helped stabilize the franchise even before the
lease agreement with Glendale was approved.

Before the vote, the Coyotes were able to sign general manager
Don Maloney, assistant general manager Brad Treliving and coach
Dave Tippett, along with most of his staff, before the lease deal
was completed. Phoenix also signed top goalie Mike Smith to a
long-term deal and, once the lease agreement was in place, RSE gave
the front office the financial freedom it didn’t have in four years
of being run by the NHL, allowing the team to sign front-line
forward Mike Ribeiro.

”We thank the Coyotes’ devoted fans for their patient,
perseverant support,” Bettman said. ”We are extremely pleased
that a positive resolution has been achieved for the fans, the
city, the Coyotes and the League.”

The team’s name will be changed to Arizona Coyotes sometime
after next season.