RIM co-CEO may bid on NHL's Coyotes: judge

Thu Aug 6, 2009 10:56am EDT
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By Phil Wahba

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A group led by the co-chief executive of BlackBerry maker Research in Motion will be allowed to bid in the September auction for the National Hockey League's bankrupt Phoenix Coyotes franchise, a federal judge ordered on Wednesday.

RIM's co-CEO James Balsillie had offered $212.5 million when the team filed for bankruptcy in May on condition he be allowed to move it to Hamilton, Ontario. The NHL, which has said it wants the team in Arizona, last week said Balsillie was not a "viable buyer".

The auction was to have taken place this week and be limited to bidders wanting to keep the team in Glendale, Arizona. Earlier this week, Federal Bankruptcy Court Judge Redfield Baum postponed the auction until September 10 to allow the bidders to finalize their offers.

The auction should be open to "any and all bidders," including Balsillie's group, Baum wrote in a ruling issued on Wednesday.

Two bidders, Ice Edge Holdings LLC, a group of Canadian and U.S. businessmen that has offered up to $150 million, and Jerry Reinsdorf, owner of the Chicago White Sox and Chicago Bulls teams who has offered up to $148 million, had asked the court to give them more time to finalize their offers.

Both those bidders said they plan to keep the team in the Phoenix area.

"From the time his bid was launched, Jim Balsillie has said that all he is asking for is a chance to bid for the Coyotes at auction through the bankruptcy court process on a level playing field and let the best bid win," a Balsillie spokesman said in a statement.

At a hearing on Monday, Judge Baum called Balsillie's bid the "highest and best."

The case is in Re: Dewey Ranch Hockey LLC, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Arizona, No. 09-09488.

(Reporting by Phil Wahba; Editing Bernard Orr)

<p>Research In Motion Co-Chief Executive Officer Jim Balsillie addresses the audience about 'Entrepreneurship and Innovation' during the National Summit at the Renaissance Center in Detroit, Michigan June 17, 2009. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook</p>