It looks as if Jim Balsillie can forget about a last-minute boost from politicians in Glendale, Ariz., when it comes to the Phoenix Coyotes.
Only one member of the city council of suburban Glendale, where the Coyotes play, was in favour of accepting Balsillie's $50-million (all currency U.S.) offer for breaking the team's lease with city-owned Jobing.com Arena. Most of the other councillors, who were surveyed yesterday by the Arizona Republic newspaper, said the city should either not register any further opinion with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, or maintain its official approval of the NHL's $140-million offer in the court auction for the Coyotes.
Balsillie, co-chief executive officer of Research In Motion Ltd., offered $242.5-million for the Coyotes but only if he could move the team to Hamilton. His offer jumped that high when he offered the city the $50-million carrot. The NHL has committed to only one more season in Glendale but said its preference is to find a buyer who will not move the team.
Judge Redfield T. Baum was to receive the formal written bids from both Balsillie and the NHL last night in the wake of last Friday's auction. He is expected to pick one of them in the next two weeks.
Glendale council was set to discuss Balsillie's offer last night in what is called an executive session, which is closed to the public. But only councillor Phil Lieberman, who wants to keep the team in Glendale, said the city should grab Balsillie's $50-million.
Lieberman noted it would help pay the city's debt on the arena, which is about $7-million a year.
"I believe the time is now to take the $50-million and put up with the fact that we will have to continue the debt service on [the arena]" Lieberman told The Republic. "I don't believe the council will put it to a vote. They don't want to take a stand one way or the other that the public can say, 'Why did you do that?' Who are we deciding for? Are we deciding for ourselves or for 253,000 people in Glendale?"
Lawyers for Glendale have already told Baum the city favours the NHL's bid over Balsillie's. But if they were swayed by Balsillie's last-minute pitch, in exchange for dropping the city's claim for $500-million in damages if the arena lease is broken, it has to be filed with the court today.
Managing partner and head coach Wayne Gretzky boycotted training camp for the fourth consecutive day yesterday. He is staying home until the status of his $8-million-a-year contract, which the NHL will not assume if it wins the bidding, is ironed out.