John Breslow, until now a little-known minority partner to Phoenix Coyotes owner Jerry Moyes, emerged yesterday as a new bidder for the team.
Breslow, who holds about 2 per cent of the team, wants to prevent it from moving.
Breslow's lawyer, Scott Cohen, said Breslow heads a group that has already filed an offer with the NHL. Cohen declined to reveal any details of the offer aside from Breslow's intention to keep the Coyotes in suburban Glendale. He also said Breslow will not grant any media interviews.
However, it appears there has been a split between Moyes and Breslow. On May 13, Breslow filed a declaration with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court supporting the NHL's attempt to block the $212.5-million (all currency U.S.) sale of the Coyotes to Jim Balsillie, whose offer is conditional on the team moving to Hamilton.
The NHL successfully petitioned the court to keep Breslow's declaration under seal on the grounds it would embarrass Moyes and possibly hinder anyone from making an offer for the team. But Breslow's declaration was filed along with one from NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly, who used harsh language in accusing Moyes of secretly negotiating with Balsillie and changing the wording of the Coyotes' ownership agreement with the NHL.
Daly could not be reached for comment about the offer.
Moyes also declined to comment. His spokesman, Steve Roman, said yesterday: "I don't think anybody knows what the offer is. The only offer we know about is the Balsillie one."
Balsillie, co-founder of Research In Motion, did not have anything to say about the offer. But his spokesman, Bill Walker, said they support an open auction for the Coyotes and are confident Balsillie's offer remains the best one. "May the best bid emerge," Walker said.
Roman could not say if Breslow discussed making an offer with Moyes. He also could not say if the two men were friends. "I couldn't characterize their relationship," Roman said.
Cohen said Breslow is a "huge hockey fan" who wants to "work with the NHL and the city" to prevent the team from being sold to Balsillie and moved. "He is 100-per-cent not interested in moving the team," Cohen said.
Cohen would not say who else is in the group nor would he say if Wayne Gretzky, another minority owner of the Coyotes and the head coach, was involved in the bid.
"I can't comment if the Great One is involved," Cohen said.
Breslow is a native of Lincoln, Neb., who now lives primarily in Las Vegas. In 1998, he unsuccessfully ran as a Republican candidate for governor of Nebraska and was the state's auditor from 1991 to 1999.
Three years ago, he sold his family company, a supplier of industrial gases and welding, for a reported $260-million.
Breslow is the executive director of Coyotes Charities. Cohen said he is such a big fan of hockey, he travels regularly with the team to its games around the NHL.
Last week, sources told The Globe and Mail that the letter of intent to buy the Coyotes the NHL said it had from Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf was attached to a plan to move the team to Las Vegas in two years with the league's blessing.
Cohen said Reinsdorf is not involved in Breslow's group despite his connection to Las Vegas. He emphasized that Breslow wants to keep the Coyotes in Glendale.
Gary Husk, a spokesman for the City of Glendale, said the city does not know the terms of the offer. However, Husk added, "We are obviously supportive of any investor group that is committed to keeping the Coyotes in Glendale."
On Tuesday, U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Redfield T. Baum ordered lawyers for Moyes and Balsillie to change the terms for an auction of the Coyotes in order to use Balsillie's offer as a starting bid. The NHL has to approve bids before they can be accepted.
The new rules have not yet been formally drawn up by the court, so Cohen said the Breslow offer cannot be considered official.
Cohen said: "I believe the proposal has already been sent to the NHL, but I do not know if it meets the new parameters set by the court [on Tuesday]"
The NHL won a motion to keep the details of Reinsdorf's letter of intent confidential.
Baum ruled that since an open auction for the team will be held, the Reinsdorf letter is not relevant at this point. If Reinsdorf wants to make a bid, he can do so, the judge said, and Moyes and his lawyers can see the details of his bid at that time.
The judge also sent Moyes and the NHL to mediation on the question of who controls the team, saying it was almost irrelevant because both sides want to sell the team.
Baum also scheduled a hearing on June 22 to hear arguments and probably decide if the team can be moved by a new owner.
With a report from Paul Waldie in Toronto