Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Gary Bettman updates media on stalled Coyotes sale

In what likely was to simply cool off all the relocation talk coming from north of the border, National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman flew to Phoenix and scheduled a press conference. He addressed the media prior to tonight's Phoenix Coyotes home game against the Vancouver Canucks at Arena in Glendale, Arizona. It would be to provide an update on the stalled sale of the Coyotes to prospective owner Matthew Hulsizer.

video courtesy: Phoenix Coyotes

"There is a deal structure for Matthew Hulsizer to buy the Coyotes from the league. There are arrangements in place approved by the city of Glendale that would enable the Coyotes to live happily ever after in Arena," Bettman said in his opening statement. "And that would ensure that the arena doesn't go dark and it would protect the future of people who have businesses and jobs at (Westgate City Center)."

After thanking the city of Glendale, Hulsizer and the Coyotes organization for their dedication and patience through this difficult time, he then did the same for the fans in which he said:

"I finally want to thank the Coyotes fans for their tenaciousness and their support. And I know there are a lot more of them than this club gets credit for."

The commissioner then identified what has been holding up the sale transaction to this point.

*The bonds haven't yet been put up for sale for investors despite an A1 rating.

*The Goldwater Institute has "placed a cloud" on the bond cost and the legality of the franchise sale agreement.

Bettman ended his opening remarks by saying:

"We're not yet done. We haven't given up and we're not giving up. For anyone suggesting that we're not still committed to Glendale, you have not been following what we have done for the past two years. And our commitment remains as strong as ever. But time is running out and we're getting close to the end."

However, he then added there isn't a firm deadline.

"I will not today say when the end is. And I will not today set a deadline. But at some point, we may have no choice but to begin pursuing our other alternatives. Most simply stated, this situation must be resolved."

Bettman then opened the news conference up for questions for reporters to ask. Among those that he answered were the following:

*He was told within the last 72 hours that there have been numerous meetings between the parties involved over the last few months and thousands of documents submitted to answer the Goldwater Institute's questions about the sale agreement.

*He sent a message to the Goldwater Institute they should step down because it appears to be more of a leverage play on their part to hold up the transaction from being completed.

*The pursuit of the bonds being sold is ongoing. It is getting more expensive the longer Goldwater Institute drags out the process. Bettman believes it will cost taxpayers more money if these bonds are issued at a higher price than it should be without the delay.

*The NHL isn't in the position to tweak the sale agreement and stated that particular matter is between the city of Glendale and Hulsizer. It has been understood there has no focus on changing the terms of the deal.

*He claims Goldwater Institute will only meet with them if it is by a public news conference. They won't do it that way. Negotiations should not be done by media events.

*No specific deadline will be announced because it would give the Goldwater Institute the opportunity to just "wait out the clock" and kill the sale agreement. Bettman questioned if they have a bonafide case for a lawsuit against the city of Glendale.

*The commissioner is confident based on what information was provided, the documentation of what entity owns the land (parking rights) around Arena is clear. He believes that Goldwater Institute's dispute of the land ownership is just a smokescreen.

*There are other options besides the rumored frontrunner of Winnipeg as a relocation option. Bettman would not name them, especially because his top priority is Glendale, Arizona.

*The the Goldwater Institute's sending of letters to the bond agencies is under question for an unknown motivation. One possible reason is to scare off investors to finance the sale.

*According to Bettman, it is Glendale's decision if they decide to sue the Goldwater Institute, not the NHL.

*The bonds would all be sold together to fund the sale agreement, not in pieces.

*What ownership party is responsibility for operating losses for the 2010-2011 season depends on what particular point in time is identified.

*Bettman is standing firm on his belief that with the right owner under the terms of this sale agreement, the Coyotes as a business entity will succeed. He also believes an economic recovery in the Phoenix area will be a beneficial factor.

*The NHL is not in a position to speculate if the terms of the sale agreement were changed that it would accelerate it toward completion. The deal was struck. It is just the impediment on Goldwater Institute's part that has blocked it from being closed.

All and all, this was basically just as Bettman stated. It was give the public an update as to where the league stands while the completion of the sale agreement has been stalled. At the same time, it appeared that he also wanted to state clearly what is keeping it from being finalized.

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