Which buyer will emerge in Coyotes saga?
Next week will be an important and interesting time for the Phoenix Coyotes, when the NHL hopes to obtain court approval for its purchase of the insolvent hockey franchise from Jerry Moyes.
Finally, this drawn-out bankruptcy soap opera appears near a conclusion and the league can move forward to find a suitable new owner. But which potential buyer will emerge from the crowd?
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly has hinted there are more groups interested in purchasing the Coyotes than the oft-mentioned Ice Edge group and Jerry Reinsdorf, owner of the Chicago White Sox and Chicago Bulls.
There apparently is a Canadian group that may decide to step up: the co-owners of the Toronto Argonauts football team, David Cynamon and Howard Sokolowski. Daly would not comment on whether the Argo owners, who have considered selling their CFL club, were still in the Coyotes ownership picture.
The NHL confirmed it met in New York on Monday with Ice Edge, a group of Canadian and U.S. businessmen who hope to play five of the Coyotes' home games in Saskatoon.
That plan has yet to be given the NHL's blessing, but Ice Edge has confirmed discussions with the Arizona city of Glendale in the hopes of reworking the Coyotes' lease agreement.
Meanwhile, as of Tuesday afternoon the league had not heard from Wayne Gretzky on his reaction to the tentative deal with Moyes. Gretzky, a part-owner who removed himself as coach in training camp last month, put in a claim as creditor.
Moyes took the team into Chapter 11 bankruptcy shelter last May and planned to sell the struggling NHL team for $242 million US to Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie, who wanted to transfer the Coyotes to Hamilton.
U.S. Judge Redfield T. Baum, however, rejected both Balsillie's bid and the NHL's $140-million bid last month, but left the door open for the NHL if it amended its bid to compensate Moyes and Gretzky better.
Money for creditors may be thin
The league never did amend its offer. Moyes simply became impatient.
The longer this saga went on, the more money that may have been available for Moyes and Gretzky was being burned through.
For example, to meet payroll and other expenses, there was to be another $2.6 million to be paid out this week. That is the main reason the two sides agreed to a deal Monday.
The judge's approval is still required and he has set a Friday deadline to hear any concerns from other creditors. The league is hoping the deal will close next Monday.
The NHL has been covering the Coyotes' operating costs for almost a year now, but will be reimbursed out of its $140-million payment for the team.
Under the NHL's offer, $11.5 million would go to contractors' claims at Jobing.com Arena and to cover debt owed to the City of Glendale. Another $79.7 million would be paid to SOF Investment, the largest secured creditor, and $37 million would go back to the NHL for its temporary financing of the team over the past year.
After legal fees, that would leave less than $10 million left to pay Moyes and Gretzky.
Moyes claims he is due $104 million.