Ice Edge Holdings LLC will not bid for the bankrupt Phoenix Coyotes after all.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a court filing late Tuesday that "I have been advised that the Ice Edge Group does not currently intend to participate in the auction."
Ice Edge, a group of North American businessman fronted by Daryl Jones and Anthony LeBlanc, had submitted a bid of $150 million US for the Coyotes, pending a lease agreement with the City of Glendale — the Phoenix suburb where the team plays — and on the proviso they play five games in Saskatoon.
The group tentatively booked five dates at Saskatoon's Credit Union Centre in anticipation of the auction.
If Ice Edge has indeed pulled out, Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie and the NHL stand to be the only bidders in a court-supervised auction scheduled to be held Thursday and possibly run into Friday.
Judge Redfield T. Baum will oversee the auction, but first must decide whether or not Balsillie is even eligible to take part.
The NHL is demanding Balsillie not be permitted to participate in the auction because the league's board of governors has rejected his ownership application.
The board had yet to vote on the suitability of Ice Edge as a potential owner.
That said, the lawyer for Coyotes majority owner Jerry Moyes and his wife Vickie — both creditors — filed a motion late Tuesday demanding Baum disqualify the NHL's bid on several grounds and accept Balsillie's bid.
"The NHL bid violates the distribution scheme of the bankruptcy code by paying lower-priority creditors before higher-priority creditors … Under all the cases cited by the debtors and the NHL, the NHL bid cannot be approved as a matter of law," said Thomas Salerno, Moyes's lawyer.
Balsillie increased bid to $242.5 million
Balsillie, the co-CEO of Research in Motion Ltd., maker of the BlackBerry smartphone, increased his bid for the NHL franchise to $242.5 million on Monday.
Balsillie had been offering $212.5 million, with $104 million committed to Moyes, who claimed to have lost $300 million since investing in the team and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on May 5.
But the bid, which is contingent on relocating the Coyotes in Hamilton, was revised to address concerns raised by unsecured creditors during last Wednesday's court hearing.
The NHL has countered with a bid of $140 million and intends to keep the Coyotes in Phoenix for the time being.
The league entered into the bidding about two weeks ago when Jerry Reinsdorf, owner of the Chicago Bulls and White Sox, withdrew his $148-million bid, citing an inability to reach an agreement with the City of Glendale.
Reinsdorf was demanding $23 million in annual subsidies from the city, but local politicians refused to pay a penny more than promised in the existing lease.
Ice Edge likely encountered similar resistance from Glendale.
"If either of the Reinsdorf or Ice Edge groups had made a qualified bid by Aug. 25, it is unlikely that the NHL would have made a bid at that time," Bettman said in a filing.
The Coyotes open training camp on Saturday and play their first pre-season game on Sept. 15.With files from The Canadian Press