The attempt by Ice Edge Holdings to buy the Phoenix Coyotes has run into major trouble.
Negotiations broke off Monday between the group and the City of Glendale over a potential arena lease deal for the financially struggling NHL team.
Ice Edge had demanded an exclusivity agreement in talks with Glendale, which missed its Monday deadline to grant one.
"We were adamant about needing exclusivity in these negotiations and they haven't provided it," Ice Edge chief operating office Daryl Jones told the Winnipeg Free Press late Monday night.
"I'm not totally surprised. We've been dealing with this for a while. We thought we had agreed to certain things and expected them in writing. That didn't materialize."
Ice Edge, a consortium of Canadian and American business people that failed in a previous attempt to purchase the Coyotes, recently re-entered the picture after Chicago sports mogul Jerry Reinsdorf backed away from discussions to buy the club from the NHL, which bought it out of bankruptcy last fall.
Reinsdorf's proposal received unanimous approval last month from city council in Glendale — the suburban entity that owns Jobing.com Arena, where the Coyotes play their home games. After Reinsdorf backed out because the city would not meet his demand for more than $45 million a year in subsidies, Glendale turned again to Ice Edge.
Ice Edge had reportedly been on the verge of securing an exclusivity deal that would make the group the only contender to keep the team in Arizona, but it didn't materialize before the deadline.
Without the exclusivity deal, which would prevent Reinsdorf from swooping back in, it appears Ice Edge will not continue to negotiate with Glendale.
Still, it doesn't necessarily mean the Ice Edge bid is dead. A source close to the discussions told CBC Sports' Jeff Marek that Ice Edge will "leave their phones on, but their pencils are down."
In another development, the NHL is asking Glendale for an unspecified amount of money, probably the $20 million to $25 million US the franchise lost this year, to cover losses while the sale of the team is completed. The council is to act on the request at its Tuesday night meeting.
If council votes for covering the Coyotes' losses, there's a good chance the team will stay put for next season.
Barring a reversal by Reinsdorf, Ice Edge appears to be the last potential buyer willing to keep the Coyotes in Arizona. If the group's plan falls through or Glendale doesn't meet the league's demands, the team could be sold to a buyer who would move it.
The most likely destination appears to be Winnipeg. The franchise played there as the Jets before a 1996 move to the desert, where it has lost millions since.
Canadian billionaire David Thomson is interested in buying the Coyotes and moving them back to the Manitoba capital.
Marek, though, said it's too early to predict where the team will end up.
"Considering how many twists and turns this saga has taken, I wouldn't want to speculate on where they're going," Marek said. "But it is looking better than ever for the city of Winnipeg."With files from The Canadian Press