GLENDALE, Ariz. — Two league sources have told FOX Sports Arizona that it is unlikely prospective Coyotes owner Greg Jamison will be able to meet Thursday’s deadline to purchase the club before a $308 million lease agreement with the City of Glendale expires. What does that mean for the long-rudderless club? There are a few possibilities.
If the deadline passes without a completed sale, Jamison’s bid to buy the team could be over. If that happens, the league could open the bidding process again to other potential suitors. ESPN reported that a separate, unnamed group of investors is prepared to step in if Jamison is unable to close the deal by Thursday, and sources have indicated this group is real.
If another group is unable to complete the sale this season, it could mean the end of the Coyotes’ tenure in Arizona — one that began in 1996 when the franchise relocated from Winnipeg. Quebec City and Seattle have been mentioned as potential landing places, as has Markham, Ontario, a town north of Toronto that recently approved funds to build an NHL-style arena.
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But a third possibility is that Jamison will remain in the picture and either gain an extension from Glendale or attempt to broker a new lease agreement with the city as well as a new purchase agreement with the league.
It’s unclear if Glendale will agree to an extension on the $308 million lease agreement, although it appears unlikely. New Mayor Jerry Weiers, who took office after the lease agreement was approved by the previous city council, made it clear to the Arizona Republic that he would not honor the current deal after Jan. 31, but he could push for a reworked agreement that is more beneficial to the city.
As late as last week, Jamison remained optimistic that he could close the deal by the Jan. 31 deadline, but contrary to widespread reports, Jamison made it clear that he did not yet have all the money or investors necessary to purchase the team.
The Coyotes’ annual losses of between $20 million and $30 million, opposition by citizen groups and the Goldwater Institute, and the 113-day lockout have all hindered his efforts, as has the NHL’s reported asking price of $170 million.
Jamison was not available for comment on Wednesday.
Whichever of the three scenarios listed above (or another) plays out, it appears the most bizarre and lengthy ownership saga in NHL history will continue beyond yet another artificial deadline.
It began when prior owner Jerry Moyes attempted to put the team into bankruptcy nearly four years ago and then attempted to sell the team to Canadian billionaire and Blackberry founder Jim Balsillie. Balsillie’s purchase was contingent on moving the franchise to Hamilton, Ontario, a move strongly opposed by the NHL. A bankruptcy judge rejected Balsillie’s bid, leaving the NHL as the only bidder, buyer and hopeful seller.
The team thought it had an owner in Matthew Hulsizer, co-founder and chief executive officer of PEAK6 Investments, but that deal fell through amid opposition from the local watchdog Goldwater Institute and questions about Hulsizer’s available funding. The same sources confirmed to FOX Sports Arizona on Thursday that Hulsizer has sought to re-enter the Coyotes ownership mix recently, but it’s unclear in what capacity.
Jamison’s name first surfaced about a year ago, and after a pair of failed citizen challenges, the Glendale City Council eventually approved a lease agreement with him and set a Jan. 31 deadline for him to complete the purchase of the club.
In the meantime, the low-payroll Coyotes made the playoffs the past two seasons and advanced all the way to the Western Conference final last season, marking the best finish in franchise history.
Jamison has made it clear that his top priorities from a hockey operations standpoint would be to get general manager Don Maloney, coach Dave Tippett and goalie Mike Smith signed to new contracts. All three are in the final year of their deals. Clearly, those deals would be on hold if Jamison is out or his purchase is delayed.
The league is not expected to issue a statement regarding the sale of the club until the Jan. 31 deadline has passed.