Ice Edge Holdings is ready to buy the Phoenix Coyotes as early as next week, and the group is vowing to keep the NHL club in Phoenix.
"One thing I will guarantee you is that we won't move the team," Ice Edge investor Daryl Jones said yesterday. "We've never even contemplated that."
The NHL is expected to get approval on Monday from U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Arizona to take ownership of the troubled franchise and pay creditors around $140-million (U.S.). That will clear the way for the league to re-sell the team.
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly has said several groups are interested in purchasing the Coyotes, but the league wants to find a buyer who will operate the club in Phoenix.
There have been suggestions Ice Edge and other bidders might try to move the Coyotes after a few years.
When Jerry Reinsdorf - owner of basketball's Chicago Bulls and baseball's Chicago White Sox - submitted a proposal to buy the NHL club last summer, he included a clause that would have allowed him to move it after five years. Reinsdorf later withdrew the proposal, and it's not clear if he is still interested.
Jones said Ice Edge has no plans to include a similar clause.
"Our plan has always been to buy it and operate in Phoenix," he said.
Ice Edge is made up of eight Canadian and American businessmen, including former Research In Motion Ltd. executive Anthony LeBlanc and John Breslow, a current co-owner of the Coyotes. Jones said Howard Sokolowski and David Cynamon, co-owners of the CFL's Toronto Argonauts, are not part of the group.
Ice Edge submitted an offer, worth about $150-million, last summer, but pulled it when it could not reach an arena deal with the City of Glendale, the Phoenix suburb which owns the arena where the Coyotes play. Yesterday, Jones said the group is close to a deal.
He also said Ice Edge has lined up financing for the bid. "We feel pretty confident with our financing," he said.
Jones acknowledged that running the Coyotes won't be easy for any future owner. Months of wrangling in bankruptcy court have diminished the value of the team, pushed up financial losses and driven away fans. Ice Edge has indicated one way it plans to boost revenue is by playing a few "home games" in Saskatoon. The NHL has yet to approve the idea.
Jones said the group is confident it can make NHL hockey work in Phoenix.
"We're sticking in this because we believe there is a fan base there that exists, that wants to support the team and wants to go to games," he said.