A group of Canadian and American businessmen plans to submit an offer next week to purchase the Phoenix Coyotes for more than $140-million (U.S.).
"The plan is that we are taking the next step to making an official bid and becoming what the court calls a qualified bidder," said Daryl Jones, a manager director at Research Edge LLC in New Haven, Conn. "I think we are comfortable with the fact that there's a business opportunity here."
Jones, who is Canadian, said group members met with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly last Thursday to go over their plans for the Coyotes franchise, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in May.
"We have one very unique idea that we are not going to disclose which is a little out of the box," Jones said.
Daly confirmed the meeting took place and said he and Bettman "encouraged them to put together the best proposal possible and to submit it."
The group "confirmed to me [yesterday]that they are prepared to do that," Daly said.
Jones said his group is still finalizing its offer, but it will be comparable in value to a proposal put forward by Chicago White Sox and Chicago Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf, which is worth up to $148-million.
Reinsdorf's offer is conditional on a new arena lease.
Jones said his group also wants a new lease for Jobbing.com Arena, and it has held several meetings with officials from the City of Glendale, the Phoenix suburb that built the facility in which the NHL team plays.
"We have submitted a very high-level letter of intent to them," he said.
Jones declined to comment on whether he has met with Wayne Gretzky, the Coyotes head coach and co-owner. But he said Gretzky is a key part of their plan. "He definitely would be a cornerstone for us."
The group has been reviewing the Coyotes operations and believes it can find efficiencies. For example, Jones said the team doesn't charge for parking, hasn't increased ticket prices in five years and doesn't have a restaurant in the arena.
"These are all little things, but little things add up pretty quickly," he said.
Jones said the group consists of six core investors. "It's a group of relatively young guys, versus the average [NHL]ownership group, that's done pretty well in their careers and kind of looks at this as potentially an interesting next step."
The group must submit a formal bid by July 24 in time for the U.S. bankruptcy court's auction on Aug. 5 for bidders interested in keeping the club in Phoenix. So far, only Reinsdorf and Jones's group have come forward.
If that auction fails, another one will be held on Sept. 10 to relocate the club.
"It's a 100-metre sprint," Jones said.
"If we can get to the finish line, I think this would be a win for a lot of people, in Phoenix, the Glendale area, the NHL and the people involved in the franchise now."