Moyes was 'broke and 'done' in October
PHOENIX -- Phoenix Coyotes owner Jerry Moyes told NHL officials that he was "broke" and "done" funding the team last October, the league said in a bankruptcy court filing.
One month after that meeting, Moyes told commissioner Gary Bettman and other officials "that he was no longer willing or able to fund the club," according to the filing.
Those admissions, the league argues, triggered an agreement that allowed the NHL to take over the financially troubled hockey club.
When the Winnipeg Jets moved to Phoenix in 1996 and became the Coyotes, it was a fresh start for a financially strapped franchise. The first six years were mostly positive and in 2003 the team moved into a new arena. However, the last six years of their existence have been markedly worse than the first half-dozen.
|First 6 Seasons||Last 6 Seasons*|
"I understand that Moyes was fully aware that he was giving up and ceding to the commissioner control of the equity and operations, including as managing member, of the club and arena management," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly says in the filing.
League officials "have effectively made all ownership and management decisions for the club since November 2008," according to the filing.
Among those decisions was the removal of Coyotes chairman and CEO Jeff Shumway on Jan. 23. At the time, Moyes announced Shumway's departure in a statement, saying, "Jeff has done a great job in managing the team for me but right now I need him to focus on some of my other projects."
The Coyotes filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on May 5. Moyes' attorney, Thomas Salerno, said Moyes has lost more than $200 million in equity and more than $100 million in debt with the Coyotes, although some of the debt will be paid as part of the bankruptcy settlement.
The league is contesting Moyes' bankruptcy filing, as well as his attempt to sell the club for $212.5 million to Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie, who plans to move the team to southern Ontario.
The NHL says Moyes gave up the right to place the team into bankruptcy when he received financing from the league last year. The league also contends Moyes has no right to complete a sale conditional on a move to southern Ontario because that territory belongs to the league.
"Any bid for the sale of the Phoenix Coyotes solely for relocation to Ontario is a sham and should be rejected by this court," the league said in another Arizona bankruptcy court document filed Wednesday.
The NHL adds that Moyes has not complied with all the rules he agreed to when he bought the Coyotes, and there isn't time for the franchise to be moved before next season.
Judge Redfield Baum will hold a hearing on May 19 for arguments on who is in charge of the franchise and whether Moyes had the authority to file for bankruptcy.
Balsillie said Thursday his attempt to buy and move the Coyotes is about the "passion Canadians feel for the game of hockey."
"Who owns or controls the team is a distinction without a difference," Balsillie said in a statement. "The team itself is still bankrupt, voluntarily or not. The owner of the team has a fiduciary obligation towards the creditors."
Balsillie, the co-CEO of BlackBerry maker Research In Motion, has twice tried and failed to buy an NHL team (Pittsburgh and Nashville) and move it to southern Ontario.
Balsillie said his offer, which is conditional on moving the team to southern Ontario, goes the furthest in "satisfying creditors' claims."
"At the end of the day, this is about the passion Canadians feel for the game of hockey and a chance to provide those fans with the opportunity to support a seventh NHL team," Balsillie said. "That's what this is all about, great hockey fans in a great hockey market."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press
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