Near the end of a U.S. Bankruptcy Court hearing last week, Judge Redfield T. Baum told the dozens of lawyers in front of him that he planned to leave for a week-long vacation before he has to decide if Jim Balsillie's bid for the Phoenix Coyotes will be allowed to stand.
Judge Baum said he wanted all documents leading up to the Sept. 2 hearing filed by next Tuesday morning, "because I am getting on a plane that day. It is a long flight and I can read them on the flight. So woe betide anyone who does not file [by then]"
In a blizzard of court filings yesterday by the NHL, Balsillie's lawyers and the lawyers for Phoenix Coyotes owner Jerry Moyes, the judge was given enough reading material to last for his entire vacation. But the parties were still unable to come to an agreement on the two issues in the latest hearing, the attendance of Balsillie's chief legal strategist, Richard Rodier, at depositions and the production of documents by Balsillie and Moyes.
All they managed was a partial agreement that will see Rodier attend today's deposition of NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and tomorrow's grilling of deputy commissioner Bill Daly. The league refused a request for Rodier to sit in on its questioning of Balsillie next week, so the decision will be up to Judge Baum.
The judge will also have to decide which e-mail messages and other documents between Rodier, Basillie, Moyes and their various lawyers have to be turned over to the NHL. That discussion continued yesterday, with Balsillie's lawyers maintaining the NHL is on a fishing expedition.
In the meantime, one of the leaders of a group of Canadian and American businessmen known as Ice Edge Holdings LLC said he is confident they will meet Tuesday's deadline for NHL-approved bids to be filed with the court. However, Daryl Jones did not offer any update on negotiations with the City of Glendale on a new arena lease, which is a condition of their bid. Ice Edge says it will offer $150-million (all currency U.S.) for the team.
More than 60 documents, some as long as 100 pages, were filed with the court over the last three days. There were charges and counter-charges over whether Moyes and Balsillie conspired to drive away other bidders for the Coyotes and whether Moyes, Balsillie or both tried to funnel confidential information to a conservative watchdog group that may sue Glendale if it thinks too much public money was paid to subsidize the Coyotes through a new arena lease.
Moyes and Balsillie, who has offered $212.5-million, maintain the NHL's actions are all driven by its opposition to Balsillie's plans to move the team to Hamilton. One of their filings pointed out that Judge Baum himself wondered about this when he mused at a hearing that "the court has the firm sense that if the only issue here was [Balsillie]purchasing the Phoenix Coyotes [without relocation]there would be no objection from the NHL."
The filing also questioned the NHL governors's rejection of Balsillie's ownership application on grounds of character. A long list of current and former NHL owners who had their own troubles was presented.
The NHL accused Moyes of being a puppet of Balsillie and Rodier, going along with their strategy to use the bankruptcy laws to force a move in order to get the most money he could from the sale.