The NHL has approved the sale of the Phoenix Coyotes to a group of Canadian-led investors, but the deal is contingent on reaching a lease agreement with the city of Glendale, two people familiar with the situation told The Associated Press.
The NHL agreed to sell the team to Renaissance Sports & Entertainment, a group headed by George Gosbee, Anthony LeBlanc and Daryl Jones, according to the people, who spoke Saturday on condition of anonymity because there had been no official announcement.
They said NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, deputy commissioner Bill Daly and the prospective buyers will meet with Glendale officials on Tuesday for talks on a lease.
The NHL bought the Coyotes out of U.S. Bankruptcy Court in 2009 and has tried without success to find a buyer who would keep the team in Glendale.
The approval of the Gosbee group's sale by the NHL was first reported by Fox Sports Arizona.
LeBlanc and some of this group's partners, among them Daryl Jones, were part of a previous effort to buy the team under the name Ice Edge, Inc. Gosbee, a banker and financier, is chairman, president and chief executive officer of Alberta-based AltaCorp Capital Inc.
The lease with Glendale has always been a sticking point in the sale of the team. Glendale owns Jobing.com Arena, where the Coyotes play and the city has spent tens of millions of dollars to help cover the franchise's operating losses under the NHL's nearly four-year ownership of the team. Any lease deal also likely will cost the financially-strapped city, but losing the team as an anchor tenant may cost much more.
If this effort falls through, Bettman could finally give up on his insistence on keeping the team in Arizona and agree to a move of the franchise, which has lost money since it moved to the desert from Winnipeg in 1996.
Then-owner Jerry Moyes, to the surprise of Bettman, took the team into bankruptcy in 2009, with an agreement to sell to Blackberry founder Jim Balsille, who would move the franchise to Hamilton, Ontario. But the NHL and its band of attorneys, joined by the city of Glendale, vehemently fought the plan in a court-case that dragged out through that summer, and the judge ruled that he couldn't overturn the NHL's authority to determine where its franchises are located. When other bids failed, the NHL stepped in and bought the team.
A bid by former San Jose Sharks owner Craig Jamison to buy the team was the latest attempt to fall through.
Despite the uncertainty and limitations of its ownership situation, the Coyotes had surprising success on the ice, even making it to the Western Conference finals last season. The team failed to make the playoffs in this season.
On Friday, the Coyotes announced it had reached agreement on a long-term contract with general manager Don Maloney and is working to re-sign coach Dave Tippett.