GLENDALE, Ariz. - The Glendale City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to approve a memorandum of understanding from Ice Edge Holdings toward purchasing the Phoenix Coyotes and keeping the NHL team at Jobing.com Arena.
The memorandum gives Ice Edge, a group of Canadian and American investors, exclusive negotiating rights for a new arena lease over the next 60 days. A new lease is a necessary step toward buying the team from the NHL. Glendale officials say the memorandum will be forwarded to league officials for a final decision.
A group headed by sports mogul Jerry Reinsdorf withdrew from efforts to purchase the Coyotes on Monday night, leaving Ice Edge as the only potential buyer. Reinsdorf owns the Chicago White Sox and Chicago Bulls.
The NHL bought the team out of bankruptcy last September with the intention of selling it to someone who would keep it in Glendale, where the team has lost tens of millions of dollars in recent seasons.
"Obviously, Ice Edge is happy to be back involved with the Coyotes, working with the city of Glendale," Ice Edge chief executive officer Anthony LeBlanc said, "and to be doing so in an exclusive manner."
Ice Edge plans to buy the team with their own money and bank financing.
The memorandum outlines terms of the proposed lease, with the hockey team owners getting revenue from parking and from a special taxing district to be formed in the immediate vicinity of Jobing.com Arena.
"We have a lot of work to do," LeBlanc said. "We have to work closely with the city to finalize the lease itself, and we obviously have to work with the NHL itself. We do anticipate we're going to be able to get this thing done over the summer months."
He said he expects the lease agreement to be accomplished "remarkably quick compared to the process thus far."
Once a new lease is in place, the NHL would determine if Ice Edge should be allowed to complete the purchase.
The league has been seeking a buyer since it purchased the franchise in U.S. Bankruptcy Court.
Then-owner Jerry Moyes took the team into bankruptcy, without the NHL's knowledge, with a plan to sell to Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie, contingent on moving the Coyotes to Hamilton, Ont.
The league vehemently opposed the plan, saying it should have the right to determines who owns its franchises and where they play. Eventually, the NHL won that battle but had to buy the team itself when Reinsdorf and Ice Edge withdrew their bids, citing an inability to reach a lease deal with Glendale.
The Coyotes haven't turned a profit since moving from Winnipeg in 1996. The Glendale council recently pledged US$25 million to cover anticipated losses in the coming season if a sale doesn't go through before then.