Toronto Argonaut co-owners Howard Sokolowski and David Cynamon are considering making a bid for the Phoenix Coyotes and plan to meet city officials next week.
Sokolowski and Cynamon had been linked to Ice Edge Holdings, a group of eight Canadian and U.S. businessmen who have made a pitch for the club. But their involvement with Ice Edge ended several weeks ago, according to sources familiar with the bidding.
The pair are now exploring their own options for the club and they have assembled about a dozen financial backers, sources said. Sokolowski is expected to be in Phoenix on Monday to meet with officials from the City of Glendale, the suburb that owns the arena where the Coyotes play. Any bid for the Coyotes will have to include a new arena lease with the city.
Cynamon confirmed yesterday that he and Sokolowski are no longer part of Ice Edge and are going ahead on their own. He declined to provide further details. Daryl Jones, an Ice Edge investor, declined comment.
The NHL is expected to get approval from an Arizona bankruptcy court on Monday to buy the Coyotes and pay creditors about $140-million (U.S.). That will clear the way for the NHL to re-sell the club.
Commissioner Gary Bettman wants to find a buyer who will keep the Coyotes in Phoenix and deputy commissioner Bill Daly has said several groups are interested. He declined comment yesterday on whether league officials have talked to Sokolowski or Cynamon about a bid. It was Bettman who first raised the possibility of Sokolowski and Cynamon buying the club. He mentioned them as potential bidders in an affidavit filed in court last June, shortly after the Coyotes' were put into Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
Bettman's filing was meant to counter a bid by Jim Balsillie, who wanted to move the club to Hamilton. In the affidavit, Bettman said Sokolowski and Cynamon as well as three others "indicated an interest in operating the franchise in Phoenix." Those comments came as a surprise because Sokolowski and Cynamon were believed to be more interested in relocating an NHL franchise to the Greater Toronto Area.
The two never commented on Bettman's affidavit. But they met Jones and other Ice Edge investors over the summer when that group began putting together an offer for the Coyotes. Sources say Sokolowski and Cynamon were never formal members of the Ice Edge but were kept abreast of the group's efforts. Ice Edge withdrew its bid in September shortly before a court-supervised auction, blaming insufficient time to negotiate a new arena lease.
Only Balsillie and the NHL submitted offers for the auction and Judge Redfield T. Baum rejected both. However, he said the NHL could revise its bid. Ice Edge has recently approached the league about buying the Coyotes once the league gains control. And, the group has said it is close to a lease agreement with Glendale.