Winnipeg’s ever-flickering hopes to pirate the NHL franchise away from Phoenix took another turn for the worse on the weekend.
On Friday, the City of Glendale announced that a potential buyer for the Coyotes had ponied up $25 million (all figures US) in escrow to cover the team’s potential losses for the 2010-11 season.
“As the city and the prospective buyer work toward finalizing documents, in a show of good faith, the prospective buyer has deposited $25M in escrow,” the statement said, according to the Arizona Republic.
While Glendale did not identify the prospective buyer, the Republic reported that it is Matthew Hulsizer, a co-owner of PEAK6, which is a Chicago trading firm. Rumours of Hulsizer’s involvement have been floating around Phoenix since Sept. 1.
While his firm did not confirm to the Republic that Hulsizer was the suitor, a spokesman said the former college hockey player watched the Coyotes rookie game in person.
He is reportedly the only one negotiating a lease agreement with Jobing.com Arena, where the Coyotes play.
The Republic has also reported Ice Edge Holdings would be a minority owner under Hulsizer, who is said to be worth at least $300 million.
In the statement, the city said it “is moving forward with the prospective buyer for the purchase of the Phoenix Coyotes, subject to the negotiations and approval of the prospective buyer and the purchase price of the NHL.”
The NHL bought the Coyotes out of bankruptcy for $140 million and had given Glendale until Dec. 31, 2010 to find a purchaser who would keep the franchise there.
The NHL reportedly has a tentative agreement with True North Sports and Entertainment Ltd., which operates the AHL’s Manitoba Moose, to bring the franchise back to Winnipeg if Glendale fails to do so.
The Coyotes were the Winnipeg Jets before leaving for the desert in 1996.
“This shows the city has met the NHL deadline for finding a qualified buyer, who will keep the team here, a requirement to release the City’s $25M currently in escrow,” the statement said. “Glendale and the NHL will continue to move forward to work with the prospective buyer to facilitate a purchase of the team that will keep the Coyotes in Glendale for the long term.”
Glendale had agreed to cover up to $25 million in operating losses as part of the deal with the NHL to prevent the club from moving elsewhere.
The NHL has been declining comment since the release of the Glendale statement, likely because it does not actually identify the prospective purchaser.
Should Hulsizer or anyone else put up enough dough to keep the Coyotes franchise from fleeing Phoenix, those anxious fans in Winnipeg would then have to wait for the next struggling NHL club, and there will surely be one.