RIM CEO Balsillie threatens to ax NHL Coyotes deal

Wed May 27, 2009 5:00pm EDT
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By David Schwartz and Phil Wahba

PHOENIX/NEW YORK (Reuters) - The co-chief executive officer of BlackBerry maker Research in Motion Ltd has threatened to pull his offer to buy the bankrupt Phoenix Coyotes should a deal for the hockey team's sale and relocation not be completed by June 29.

RIM's co-CEO, James Balsillie, set the deadline because neither he "nor any other known entity, will fund another year of significant losses," a lawyer for Coyotes' owner Jerry Moyes said in documents filed on Tuesday in federal bankruptcy court in Arizona, arguing for an accelerated sale.

Balsillie, whose personal fortune is about C$3 billion ($2.69 billion), according to court filings, made a $212.5 million offer for the National Hockey League's money-losing Coyotes in May when the team filed for bankruptcy protection, contingent on relocating the team to Hamilton, Ontario, a city of 500,000 between Toronto and Buffalo, New York.

U.S. bankruptcy judge Redfield Baum on Wednesday moved up a hearing to determine who controls the hockey team -- a point of contention between the NHL and Moyes -- to June 9 from June 22, which is now the tentative date for the team's auction.

"It's a good ruling. Having a decision on the relocation issue sooner rather than later is certainly a benefit," NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told reporters outside the court.

The Coyotes have never made a profit since moving to Arizona in 1996 and lost a combined $73 million from 2005 and 2008, according to court documents.

Despite Balsillie's bid, NHL officials have said the league is committed to keeping the team -- valued last October by Forbes magazine at a league-low $142 million -- in Phoenix.

The NHL has argued the hockey team could not be relocated in time for the 2009-10 hockey season, citing logistical and scheduling problems.   Continued...

<p>Research in Motion co-chief executive Jim Balsillie speaks to the media in Toronto February 5, 2009. REUTERS/Mark Blinch</p>