Coyotes hearing moved up

STEVE BUFFERY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:56 AM ET

Arizona judge Redfield T. Baum plans to move up the hearing to discus the ownership of the bankrupt Phoenix Coyotes to June 9 in the wake of Jim Balsillie's threat to withdraw his offer of $212.5 million US for the team if the sale cannot be completed by the end of June.

The June 9 hearing replaces the previous date of June 22, with Baum yesterday ordering all sides -- Balsillie and current owner Jerry Moyes on one side, and the NHL on the other -- to file legal arguments by June 5.

If the judge decides that the Coyotes will be moved, an auction for the team will be held on June 22. But if he rules in the NHL's favour, that the team will not move from the Phoenix area, the sale will be held Sept. 29.

Lawyers representing BlackBerry bigwig Balsillie, Moyes, and the NHL were in a Phoenix courtroom yesterday for a mediation hearing in front of Baum, who was to assess whether the two sides have come close to an agreement, after he ordered them into mediation earlier this month.

Balsillie, the co-CEO of Research in Motion, has offered Moyes $212.5 million for the team, with hopes of moving the franchise to southern Ontario, most likely Hamilton. The NHL, led by commissioner Gary Bettman, has fought the possible move.

Also yesterday, Baum ruled that senior officers of the current ownership group, led by Moyes, will run the club on a day-to-day basis until the sale is determined. The officers are the team's President and COO Doug Moss, GM and Executive V.P. Don Maloney and CFO Mike Nealy.

The current ownership group and the NHL will appoint one person as a "point person" who will review the finances on a weekly basis. If the two point persons can't agree on operational decisions, either one can bring the issue to court.

Both the Balsillie and Moyes groups have expressed concern over the ability of the team to prepare for the coming draft and free agency, which begins July 1.

Documents filed on the Phoenix court on Tuesday by Moyes indicated that Balsillie would withdraw his offer if the sale cannot be completed by the end of June.

The document further stated that Balsillie's group will not fund another year of significant losses (which approach $30 million a year) and if the sale is not approved by the end of June, Balsillie's offer will be withdrawn.

Meanwhile, the city of Glendale's had launched a lawsuit to force the team to stay at the Jobing.com Arena for another 26 years.

Documents obtained by the Arizona Republic revealed yesterday that former MLB executive Tony Tavares, who runs Sports Properties Acquisition Corp., was working with Chicago sports magnate Jerry Reinsdorf to buy the team -- and signed an agreement on May 4 with the city of Glendale. The document did not reveal a purchase prize put forth by Reinsdorf and Tavares.


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