The City of Glendale said Friday it has reached an agreement in principle with a group headed by Chicago investor Matthew Hulsizer on a new lease for the Phoenix Coyotes' arena.
The agreement, announced on the city's website Friday, is the long-awaited breakthrough that could pave the way for Hulsizer to purchase the team from the NHL, which bought the Coyotes out of bankruptcy more than a year ago.
"The City and the Hulsizer group have an agreement in principle on a lease which would allow the Hulsizer group to buy the team from the National Hockey League (NHL) under the terms they requested," the brief statement read. "The proposed ownership transaction is subject to formal approval by the NHL Board of Governors."
The NHL has long said that the Coyotes couldn't remain in Glendale unless there was a new lease for the team to play in Jobing.com Arena.
Hulsizer is co-founder and chief executive officer of PEAK6 Investments. The Ice Edge group remains a part of Hulsizer's efforts to buy the team.
Hulsizer emerged recently as the money man in the efforts to purchase the team by Ice Edge. The NHL and Glendale were concerned about the Ice Edge offer because it relied heavily on bank financing. Hulsizer came in and would be the majority owner if the purchase goes through.
The a 1991 Amherst graduate was a director and risk manager for Swiss Bank from 1994 until he co-founded PEAK6 in 1997. Before that, he was a senior trader with O'Connor & Associates, a proprietary derivatives firm that was acquired by Swiss Bank.
The front page of the PEAK6 Web site says the company's success is built on "relentless innovation, flawless execution, and fierce entrepreneurialism."
The Coyotes' ownership saga began in May of 2009 when then-owner Jerry Moyes took the team into bankruptcy, to the surprise of the NHL.
Moyes planned to sell the team to Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie — founder of the company that makes the Blackberry. Balsillie had failed in earlier efforts to buy the Pittsburgh and Nashville franchises.
Balsillie's purchase was contingent on moving the franchise to Hamilton, Ont., a move vehemently opposed by the NHL. What followed was a prolonged court battle through the triple-digit heat of the 2009 summer. Last September, the bankruptcy judge rejected Balsillie's bid, leaving the NHL as the only bidder.
The league purchased the franchise with the stated intention of finding a buyer to keep the Coyotes in Arizona. But if that doesn't happen by the end of this year, the NHL said it would look for buyers elsewhere.
Glendale has deposited $25 million US to cover losses for the franchise this season. Hulsizer's group also deposited $25 million in what was described as a demonstration of good faith.
The Coyotes never have turned a profit since moving from Winnipeg in 1996.