The Phoenix Coyotes and the suburban city of Glendale won a crucial court battle Monday but the waiting game continues on the sale of the franchise.
Maricopa County Superior Court judge Robert Oberbillig sided with the city in rejecting a petition from a local business group that sought to put a local sales-tax increase on the ballot for November's municipal election. The judge ruled the wording on the petition was not accurate and did not meet Glendale's rules.
The business group can appeal the decision to the Arizona Supreme Court but there was no immediate word on its plans.
The failure of the petition removes a major obstacle to the purchase of the Coyotes from the NHL by former San Jose Sharks president Greg Jamison. However, the Phoenix Business Journal reported he is $20-million (U.S.) of the $170-million purchase price.
In the meantime, silence persisted from the camp of team captain Shane Doan, who is supposed to start looking at the six offers he received from other NHL teams since he became an unrestricted free agent July 1. Doan has been seeking reassurance from Jamison that he can complete the purchase of the team before making a decision on his future. He spoke to Jamison on Saturday but Doan`s agent, Terry Bross, did not respond to requests for comment.
The sales-tax hike goes into effect Wednesday and is expected to raise $22-million (all currency U.S.). The acting city manager had said he was not sure Glendale would be able to pay Jamison the money called for in the Coyotes' arena lease if the increase was overturned. The 20-year, $324-million lease requires a payment of $17-million to the Coyotes for the 2012-13 NHL season.
However, Jamison and the NHL may have bigger problems since he has been silent as speculation mounted he cannot raise the money to buy the team. NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said in response to the Phoenix Business Journal report nothing has changed in the sale situation.
This brings up another question - if Jamison cannot raise the purchase price how will he cover the Coyotes operating losses above the $17-million covered by the arena lease if the sale ever goes through? In a good year, the Coyotes lose more than $20-million.
The NHL has already extended its agreement to manage Jobing.com Arena to Wednesday because of delays in the sale. Another extension is looming, as is the bigger decision about owning the Coyotes for another year.
Glendale city council, which is on its summer hiatus, has been summoned to an in-camera meeting Tuesday to deal with the matter, according to city spokeswoman Julie Frisoni. The councillors will receive an update on the sale and the NHL`s intentions from the city manager and a city lawyer as well as advice about what to do next.
But if the NHL is stuck with the Coyotes for another year it is unlikely to receive $25-million from the city for "arena-management fees" this season. The city simply does not have the money and both candidates for mayor as well as many candidates for council seats are opposed to further payments for the team.