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Phoenix Coyotes owner Jerry Moyes talks to the media. (Ross D. Franklin)
Phoenix Coyotes owner Jerry Moyes talks to the media. (Ross D. Franklin)

Moyes proceeds with antitrust suit Add to ...

Jerry Moyes may have lost his attempt to sell the Phoenix Coyotes but he is not giving up his antitrust lawsuit against the NHL.

A hearing is scheduled for today in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Phoenix for arguments about whether the Coyotes owner's lawsuit can proceed.

The NHL recently asked Moyes to drop his antitrust suit. When he refused, the league turned to Judge Redfield T. Baum. He was asked to dismiss the motion because it no longer applied once BlackBerry billionaire Jim Balsillie lost his bid to buy and move the Coyotes last month and said he would not appeal the court's decision.

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It is not clear why Moyes is proceeding with the lawsuit. At this point, the only bidder acceptable to the bankruptcy court is the NHL. But it was ordered to rewrite its bid by the judge before he would accept it. Balsillie was the only buyer interested in relocating the team and he said he was finished when his bid was rejected.

The lawsuit was filed last May, shortly after Moyes took his club to U.S. Bankruptcy Court in an attempt to sell it to Balsillie, who wanted to move the team to Hamilton. As the court battle over the bankruptcy and relocation raged on through the summer, the antitrust lawsuit, which accused the NHL of acting like an illegal cartel in refusing to Balsillie to buy the club and move it, went dormant.

Not only has Moyes refused to drop the antitrust suit, he asked the court to allow his lawyers to conduct more examinations for discovery. The NHL responded by asking Baum to dismiss the lawsuit.

"Given that the only relief sought in the complaint is an injunction allowing a sale to [Balsillie]and relocation to Hamilton, the complaint is now necessarily moot," the NHL's lawyers said in a court filing.

Baum rejected both the NHL's $140-million (all currency U.S.) bid and Balsillie's $242.5-million offer. Ice Edge planned to offer $150-million but could not strike a lease agreement in time for the Sept. 11 court sale. The judge told the NHL it could resubmit its offer if it was rewritten to include Moyes and part-owner and former head coach Wayne Gretzky as creditors. The league signalled it intends to do that but nothing has been filed with the court so far.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said yesterday that, "I don't have anything new to report on the Coyotes."

In arguing for the dismissal of Moyes's lawsuit, the NHL says antitrust arguments are irrelevant because the bankruptcy court never reached the point where the league's rules on relocation were applied.

The league also said the court upheld its rules regarding ownership and relocation.

The NHL pointed out that Baum rejected Balsillie's bid because it did not "adequately protect the NHL's fundamental interest in (1) 'The right to admit only new members who meet its written requirements' and, (2), 'The right to control where its members play their hockey games.' These, of course, are the very rules and procedures which the plaintiff's [antitrust] complaint nevertheless seeks to circumvent with respect to the proposed sale."

In the end, the NHL concluded in its argument, "It was the Bankruptcy Code rather than any private enforcement of the NHL rules or procedures that ultimately barred the proposed sale of the Coyotes."

 

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