- Scott Burnside, NHL
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A day after ESPN.com reported that a group of Canadian investors interested in buying the Phoenix Coyotes from the NHL added a high-profile Canadian financier to their investment group, a completely separate group of potential buyers has emerged from California: Darin Pastor.
Pastor is an Irvine, California-based investment banker who heads up this hitherto unknown group of investors.
“I hope that they’re not successful, selfishly,” Pastor said of the Canadian investment group during an interview Friday.
A Buffalo native whose family were longtime owners of the AHL's Buffalo Bisons, Pastor told ESPN.com his group of investors, most of whom are based on the West Coast but have strong ties to the Northeast, has financing ready and hopes to reach out to the NHL as early as next week.
NHL sources told ESPN.com Friday that they were not familiar with Pastor or his interest in the team outside of being made aware of the press release sent out on behalf of Pastor earlier in the day.
ESPN.com reported this week that longtime Coyotes suitor Anthony LeBlanc had been joined by prominent Canadian financier George Gosbee and a small group of investors interested in closing a deal with the NHL and working up a lease agreement with the City of Glendale perhaps as early as next week.
LeBlanc's IceEdge Group has been at this, off and on, for three years. He is familiar to both the NHL and officials in Glendale, and there seems little doubt that the announcement of additional investors and the sense that time is finally closing on the franchise’s time in the desert has triggered Pastor’s decision at this late date to enter the ownership fray.
The NHL needs to find an owner in short order to buy the team from the league and work out a new lease agreement with the City of Glendale, or else it will have to start the process of relocating the team for next season.
Pastor, founder and CEO of wealth management firm Capstone Affluent Strategies, insisted that his group includes investment specialists with a long history of working with municipalities in regard to managing sports venues.
He did not balk at the league’s asking price of $170 million, although he noted that in any business transaction there is the anticipation of negotiating a fair price.
“I would think any ask is negotiable,” he said.
Still, he said, he didn’t think the asking price was going to be the biggest hurdle.
The biggest hurdle, then, would be establishing a new lease agreement with the City of Glendale. Previous suitor, Greg Jamison, reached a deal with the city on a 20-year lease that would have seen the new ownership group paid $324 million in management fees over the life of the agreement.
That lease agreement is off the table now that Jamison failed to come up with the financing required to buy the team from the NHL.
Pastor wouldn’t go into detail about the level of give-backs his group would require from the municipality, but said it was prepared to be “creative” and thought the city would be agreeable to the terms the group would come up with in a new lease deal.
“We want to be very flexible,” he said.
Pastor said his plan would be to have his municipal specialists meet immediately after he met with NHL officials to move the process forward.
Multiple sources have told ESPN.com over the months -- and years -- since the league took over control of the Coyotes that no one will buy this team from the league unless the municipality will give back millions of dollars in management fees.
And of course there can never be a real lease agreement in place until someone actually provides the NHL the money it is looking for in order to sell the team.
If this all sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because it is.
Potential owners have come in and out of the woodwork on a regular basis for the past four years. All have great intentions, all claim to have money to buy the team and build a championship contender and a strong fan base for years to come.
And still here we are four years later, the team twisting in the wind, the line keeping it tethered to Glendale fraying ever thinner.
Could someone like Pastor, who said his investors are committed to keeping the team in Arizona long-term, get a deal done when so many others have failed over the past four years?
Does at least the notion of competition for the team, something that has never really existed in spite of many shadowy groups who have been rumored at various times to be interested in buying the team, change the dynamic?
Is Pastor’s interest in the team genuine or does he and his investment banker group fall into the aforementioned “shadowy” category?
What is it they say about money talking?
And what is it they say about walking?
Maybe Pastor does have the money he says he has and he’ll show it to commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly next week.
Maybe the LeBlanc group will show the league the money first.
Either way, maybe someone actually showing up with the money to buy the Coyotes will spark a quick resolution to the lease agreement and thus a resolution to this sad chapter of NHL ownership.
"Maybe" is a word that Coyotes fans are all too familiar with over the course of this tedious, soul-sucking process. No way to know whether this is just another "maybe" that ends up leading to disappointment.
What isn’t subject to "maybe," however, is if someone doesn’t get down to the business of closing this deal with the league and city officials in very short order, the only thing walking will be the Coyotes.