NHL nixes Balsillie application to buy Phoenix Coyotes

Wed Jul 29, 2009 9:55pm EDT
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By Ben Klayman

CHICAGO (Reuters) - The National Hockey League on Wednesday rejected Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie's application for ownership of the Phoenix Coyotes hockey team but gave its approval to two groups vying to buy the bankrupt club.

The North American sports league said owners unanimously approved the application of sports tycoon Jerry Reinsdorf and ruled incomplete the filing by a group of investors under the name Ice Edge Holdings. But the league said Ice Edge could continue its efforts to buy the team.

The NHL, which does not want Basillie moving the Coyotes to Canada, said in a terse statement said owners voted unanimously not to approve the application from the co-CEO of BlackBerry maker Research in Motion Ltd.

A spokesman for PSE Sports and Entertainment, which represents Balsillie's bid, said he did not believe Balsillie's qualification to be an NHL owner was an issue given the league's approval of his application in 2006, when he previously tried to buy a team.

"The onus will be on the NHL to demonstrate a material change in PSE's circumstances, although no such change was raised with us today," Bill Walker said in a statement. "Beyond that, we have confidence in, and respect for, Judge (Redfield) Baum and the legal process as this case unfolds."

Reinsdorf, a part-time Arizona resident, and Ice Edge have said they intend to keep the money-losing Coyotes in Arizona, while Balsillie wants to move it to Hamilton, Ontario.

An auction for bidders who want to keep the Coyotes in Arizona is scheduled for August 5. If the judge deems the bids inadequate, a second auction open to bidders who could move the team is set for September 10.

The NHL has said it will back any bid that keeps the team in Arizona and has argued owner Jerry Moyes' May bankruptcy filing and deal to sell the club to Balsillie was made to avoid requirements for league approval on any franchise relocation.   Continued...

<p>In this file photo Phoenix Coyotes Shane Doan (top) falls on Calgary Flames Rhett Warrener during third period exhibition National Hockey League action in Winnipeg, September 24, 2008. REUTERS/Fred Greenslade</p>