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Jim Balsillie ups his bid for Phoenix Coyotes to as much as US$242.5

Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie arrives Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2009 at Federal Court in Phoenix for the Phoenix Coyotes bankruptcy hearing. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/Matt York

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Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie arrives Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2009 at Federal Court in Phoenix for the Phoenix Coyotes bankruptcy hearing. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/Matt York

Jim Balsillie is upping his efforts to bring the Phoenix Coyotes to Hamilton.

The co-CEO of Research in Motion has increased his bid for the NHL club to as much as US$242.5 million, according to documents filed by Balsillie's lawyers in an Arizona bankruptcy court on Monday night.

Balsillie had been offering $212.5 million since the team was placed in Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection back in May.

The change is intended to address concerns raised in court by unsecured creditors and could see the city of Glendale - where the Coyotes play their home games - receive an additional $50 million. That money is intended to release the team from its 30-year lease for Jobing.com Arena.

In court filings, Balsillie's lawyers acknowledge that Glendale would suffer "significant damages" if the team is allowed to moved, but argue that the city would be better off with his offer than the one put forward by the NHL.

Balsillie's amended purchase agreement guarantees that Glendale would receive $40 million as part of the purchase, provided it is willing to allow the team to continue using the arena "briefly while relocation is implemented" - perhaps hinting that he might be considering a mid-season move for the Coyotes.

"Debtors' rejection of the Jobing.com Arena lease shall not be effective until the team moves to Hamilton," read the brief. "The payment to Glendale for its claims shall be deemed to include any and all rent, city taxes, fees and other charges of any nature for use of the arena assets."

The exact amount paid to the city is contingent on relocation fees owed to the NHL, but could not fall below $40 million. Judge Redfield T. Baum had earlier been asked by Balsillie to set a reasonable price for relocation if the NHL refuses to do so.

Balsillie's new offer also extends the court's deadline to accept the sale from Sept. 14 to Sept. 21 and comes with a closing date of Oct. 2 - one day before the Coyotes are supposed to open the regular season in Los Angeles.

A court-supervised auction for the team is scheduled for Thursday.

Baum has yet to issue a ruling on whether Balsillie can take part in the auction or move the team to Hamilton as part of a sale. The NHL's Board of Governors has already voted 26-0 against Balsillie as an owner, with three abstentions.

The league tabled a bid of $140 million for the Coyotes and intends to keep the franchise in the desert for the time being. A third potential buyer, Ice Edge Holdings, has said it would spend up to $150 million to buy the team, contingent on reaching an agreement with Glendale on a new lease.

The NHL has yet to vote on Ice Edge as a potential owner.

Until now, Glendale has supported the league's bid to purchase the team. The city spent $183 million to build Jobing.com Arena - a building that opened during the 2003-04 season - and has been under increasing pressure from taxpayers as the court case has stretched out.

Balsillie's new bid sees him place $10 million in an escrow account immediately with an additional $182.5 million to be paid for the team. That leaves as much as $50 million for Glendale, provided the city agrees to sell its claims for that price.

With a myriad of issues still before the court, the hockey season is creeping closer. The Coyotes training camp is scheduled to open on Saturday and a pre-season game is set for Sept. 15.


With files from The Associated Press.

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