PHOENIX — A U.S. Bankruptcy Court
judge has expanded bidding for the Phoenix Coyotes to include potential
buyers who would move the team.
Judge Redfield T. Baum ruled
Wednesday that all bids, those to keep the team in Arizona or to move
it elsewhere, would be accepted for the Sept. 10 auction.
He specifically said the $212.5
million offer from Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie would be
considered. That sets up another showdown between Balsillie and the
NHL, because the league's board of governors has unanimously rejected
him as an owner.
Balsillie's bid is contingent on moving the team to Hamilton, Ontario.
Balsillie spokesman Bill Walker praised the judge for creating a "fair and transparent" sales process.
"It's the best outcome for creditors
and for the future of the franchise," Walker said. "We think Jim
Balsillie's bid will emerge the winner because it offers the best
financial terms and the best market in Hamilton, where hockey fans are
thirsting for this team."
But Balsillie's bid faces several major hurdles.
The NHL has made it clear it doesn't
want Balsillie as an owner, and the league hasn't ruled on whether it
would allow the team to move or what fees would be included to enter
territory now claimed by the Toronto Maple Leafs and Buffalo Sabres.
Additionally, Baum has not ruled
whether Balsillie can escape the lease the Coyotes have with the city
of Glendale to play at Jobing.com Arena.
Baum scheduled a hearing next Tuesday to consider issues that have been raised by his ruling.
An auction had been set for Aug. 5 for potential buyers who would keep the team in Arizona.
But the NHL, Glendale and the two
apparent local bidders asked for a postponement to Sept. 10. That
raised the possibility of adding bids from buyers who would relocate
Balsillie's bid is by far the biggest.
A group headed by Jerry Reinsdorf — owner of baseball's Chicago White Sox and the NBA's Chicago Bulls — has
offered $148 million to buy the team and keep it in Glendale but is
still working out details with the city and other creditors.
A third group known as Ice Edge,
headed by Canadian and American investors, told the court it intends to
submit a bid of about $150 million but was still gathering financing.
Earlier Wednesday, Baum delayed a
hearing on whether to find the owner of the Coyotes and his lawyers in
contempt of court for publicly filing documents that were supposed to
be kept confidential.
Team owner Jerry Moyes opposes the
Reinsdorf deal, which would give him little or no money. He supports
Balsillie's proposal, which would give him about $100 million.
Attorneys for Moyes posted
confidential documents to the public docket last week. The documents
were later removed, but Glendale sought the contempt order on Monday,
saying the city was "absolutely outraged" by the release of the
The Arizona Republic saw the appendix before it was removed.
It showed that Reinsdorf has asked
for a special taxing district to be created near the arena that would
pay the new owners as much as $23 million next year. And if the team
was still losing money after five years, Glendale would have to pay
Reinsdorf $15 million for each year of losses or allow the team to be
sold and moved without penalty, according to the newspaper.
Glendale contends the release of
confidential negotiations would discourage potential buyers from
participating and have a "chilling effect" on the sale process.