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Bettman on stand: NHL bids to save team for Phoenix fans

Friday, 09.11.2009 / 8:18 PM / News

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman reiterated in court Friday the NHL only made its bid for the Phoenix Coyotes as a last-resort effort to save the franchise for the team's fans, once other local bidders were discouraged by the process. He added that the League hopes to sell to ownership that would keep the Coyotes in Glendale.

On the stand at U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Phoenix, Bettman said the League never made public that it was researching the potential of making a bid because it did not want to undermine any other potential bidders that were looking to keep the team in Arizona, such as Jerry Reinsdorf and Ice Edge Holdings.
 
"My first and primary concern is I wanted either Mr. Reinsdorf or Ice Edge or both to bid and I didn't want either to feel undermined and chased off," Bettman said. "We were in discussions with Ice Edge about perhaps doing some financing and both bidders had been talking to us about revenue sharing adjustments. We were trying to encourage them to bid and I thought and I was actually concerned in terms of the relationship we developed that they would be turned off or offended with the fact that we were bidding. I was viewing bidding only as an absolutely last resort, something I didn't want to have to do unless we had to."
 
Both Reinsdorf, who owns the Chicago White Sox, and Ice Edge, a group of eight investors from Canada and the United States, pulled out of the process without ever submitting a bid. Bettman, though, said he believes either or both are still interested in owning the club and keeping it in Glendale's Jobing.com Arena should the NHL win at auction.
 
"My understanding is that if we get ownership of the club that they will want to talk to us about the possibility of buying the club," Bettman said. "My hope is, and they haven't slammed the door in our face, is that one or both and perhaps others might be interested in proceeding with us to buy the club."
 
In order to make the bid, Bettman said he had to get the approval of the Board of Governors and executive committee. However, he sought approval only because he felt he needed to leave himself an avenue to pursue should the local bidders drop out.
 
"I wanted to be prepared for the possible contingency," Bettman said. "I was having counsel do what they do. I wanted to make clear that if we decided to do this we would be ready to do it."
 
Bettman said he spoke with every member of the executive committee in the 48 hours prior to submitting a bid to seek their approval. Once he had it, he went ahead and submitted the $140 million bid on Aug. 25.
 
Bettman also confirmed the League's stance that it intended to give any profits to the franchise's creditors.
 
"What we were attempting to do with the bid when we ultimately made the decision to go with it in late August was to offer the creditors committee something if in fact we profited," Bettman said. "In the course of subsequent discussions we said you could have all the profits. We really never had a motive to want to profit off of this. We were just looking for a mechanism that would keep the team here because under these difficult circumstances it wasn't playing out in a way that we thought was conducive to that."
 
Contact Dan Rosen at drosen@nhl.com



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