There may or may not be a revised deal to sell the Phoenix Coyotes for councillors from the suburban city of Glendale to approve next Tuesday - one councillor says he expects one, while those close to prospective buyer Matthew Hulsizer say they are not aware of anything.
One thing for sure is that if, as sources indicated last week, a smaller municipal bond sale is still part of the new bid, then Glendale and the NHL will face another delay. Moody's Investors Services withdrew its rating on the original bond offering of $116-million (all currency U.S.) when the sale stalled because the Goldwater Institute, a public watchdog group, vowed to go to court to block it. A new rating for the bonds must be issued before buyers will look at them. A Moody's spokesman declined to say how long that would take.
There was some good news for NHL commissioner Gary Bettman on Thursday - a source close to the sale of the Dallas Stars said it is expected Vancouver businessman Tom Gaglardi will have a purchase agreement with the team's creditors within the next two weeks. The sale will then be packaged to go through U.S. bankruptcy court as quickly as possible and, if no new bids emerge, which is not expected, Gaglardi could take over by the end of the month.
In the meantime, NHL sources say the owners of the Atlanta Thrashers are keeping an anxious eye on the doings in Glendale. They are hoping Hulsizer's deal can be saved so that True North Sports and Entertainment Ltd., which is working to bring an NHL team to Winnipeg, will turn its attention from the Coyotes to the Thrashers.
Michael Gearon Jr., one of the Thrashers' owners, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution this week that talks with a couple of prospective buyers are under way "but nothing that is far enough along at this stage that it deserves further comment."
Back in Glendale, councillor Phil Lieberman said "I am expecting" a revised deal with Hulsizer to come before council on Tuesday, but he added he does not know the details. The matter has to be placed on the agenda by Friday afternoon if it is to be discussed and voted on by the council.
Last week, sources said the changes in the deal will include the NHL revising its $170-million asking price to either defer some payments or take less money. In addition, Hulsizer will increase the $70-million he was planning to put into the sale while Glendale will give up hope of getting back the $25-million it paid the NHL on Tuesday to cover part of the Coyotes' loss of $36.6-million for the 2010-11 season. Finally, the bond offering, which was to provide $100-million to Hulsizer, would be cut at least in half, to less than $60-million.
It is hoped the changes will get the Goldwater Institute to drop its opposition to the deal. The institute says the $100-million payment to Hulsizer is really an excessive public subsidy, which violates Arizona law, because it is being sold as a payment for parking rights around Jobing.com Arena. The institute says Glendale already owns those parking rights and cannot sell something it already owns. Goldwater recently produced an agreement between the city and the Westgate City Center development around the arena that supports this argument.
Goldwater is also opposed to the $97-million the city proposes to pay Hulsizer over the next five years to manage the arena. It says that is excessive and a management contract needs to be put up for public bids.