After a day-long bankruptcy hearing in downtown Phoenix, Judge Redfield T. Baum adjourned court Wednesday without making a ruling on whether Canadian businessman Jim Balsillie can participate in the auction for the Coyotes on Sept. 10. A date/deadline for his decision was not discussed, but the judge did ask all the parties to submit more briefs by Friday afternoon.
Attorneys for both sides argued all day about Balsillie’s character and integrity, and they also argued about relocating the team to Hamilton, Ontario on short notice should Baum rule in favor of Balsillie’s bid.
At one point, the NHL told the judge it would appeal and ask for a stay should Balsillie’s bid win on Sept. 10.
Balsillie was seated inside the packed courtroom. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman sat across the aisle from Balsillie. Baum asked neither to address the court, but both spoke to reporters after the lengthy and anti-climactic hearing.
"I don't think that would be a fair characterization," Bettman said after being asked if he was disappointed that a ruling had not been made. “As the judge indicated, a tremendous amount of paper and pleadings have been submitted. I'm sure the judge wants to be completely comfortable he's had ample opportunity to review everything and reflect on it appropriately."
Balsillie echoed Bettman’s remarks.
“I totally respect the court process,” Balsillie said. “Whenever he rules, I will respect his ruling."
Attorneys for the NHL spent a big chunk of the hearing defending the league’s decision back in July not to accept Balsillie as an owner based on character and integrity issues. They also argued that it would be impossible for the Coyotes to be based anywhere but Glendale for the 2009-10 season.
Late in the hearing, an attorney for Balsillie told the judge that if his bid won, Balsillie would be willing to keep the Coyotes in Glendale for 2009-10 if the NHL would pay half of the team's losses and not appeal Balsillie’s winning bid. The NHL quickly said thanks but no thanks.
Balsillie’s camp also argued that the only reason the NHL doesn't want him to purchase and move the team to Hamilton is that the league fears a territorial lawsuit by the nearby Toronto Maple Leafs.
Balsillie’s bid is for $212.5 million, but it’s contingent on immediately moving the team to Hamilton. The NHL has bid $140 million.
A third bid, submitted by a group of investors called Ice Edge Holdings, is reportedly worth around $150 million.