A group of Canadian and U.S. businessmen that has repeatedly tried to buy the Phoenix Coyotes could end up as co-owners yet.
The group, Ice Edge Holdings, is in discussions with former San Jose Sharks executive Greg Jamison about joining his bid for the Coyotes, according to sources familiar with the negotiations. Ice Edge is led by Anthony LeBlanc, a former executive at Research In Motion Ltd. who is based in Thunder Bay. LeBlanc declined to comment Thursday.
Sources indicate Ice Edge has been talking to Jamison since June and it is close to finalizing an agreement. Jamison "has been shopping this deal for a long, long time and to a lot of different people," one source said. "As of right now, he's feeling very confident [with Ice Edge]. … I think it is close. I do think that there's a reasonable expectation this thing gets wrapped up in the month of September."
Jamison, who could not be reached for comment, has been trying to buy the Coyotes for more than a year. It's understood that one stumbling block has been his inability to find financial backers, which could be resolved with Ice Edge.
The NHL has owned the Coyotes since 2009, after the club was put into bankruptcy protection by former owner Jerry Moyes. The league is believed to want $170-million (all currency U.S.) for the Coyotes but that's the relatively easy part. Any potential buyer also has to negotiate a lease at the Jobing.com Arena, which is owned by the City of Glendale. That has proven to be nearly impossible to date and several potential bidders have backed away. Glendale, a Phoenix suburb, has also twice pledged to pay the NHL $25-million a season to manage the arena, an unpopular expenditure in a city struggling with a slow economy.
Ice Edge is among the groups that have bid unsuccessfully for the Coyotes before, only to be tripped up on the lease issue. And there is no guarantee that won't happen again this time. While Jamison has been touted by the NHL as a likely buyer for the club, he has yet to sign a lease for the arena. Last June the city proposed a 20-year lease which would include paying Jamison roughly $14-million annually to manage the arena, although Glendale wants him to buy the team first. Since then some new hurdles have surfaced.
The city is suddenly facing the prospect of losing some badly needed revenue to finance the lease arrangement. Glendale introduced a new sales tax this summer to help cover the costs of the lease, but the measure has run into stiff opposition. A local group is pushing for a vote in November to repeal the tax. The city is also worried about the impact of a possible NHL lockout. All of which has prompted city officials to reportedly rethink some of the terms of the lease.
Jamison and Ice Edge are believed to be adamant that the lease remain unchanged. "The deal that's on the table has to remain," said a source familiar with the discussions. "Unless it's changed very, very marginally. If it's changed all that much, I just don't see this deal working."
If all that wasn't enough, Glendale will soon have a new mayor who opposes the lease agreement. Two mayoral candidates are headed for run-off election in November and neither Republican Jerry Weiers nor Democrat Manuel Cruz likes the arena deal.
Meanwhile, Coyotes captain Shane Doan has yet to say if he will stick around. Doan, who is a free agent, has indicated he wants to stay in Phoenix but only if the club's ownership is finally sorted out.