PHOENIX - Ice Edge Holdings has exclusive rights, with some conditions, to negotiate a lease agreement for the Phoenix Coyotes with the city of Glendale under a memorandum of understanding to be presented to the city council next week.
The memorandum agreed to by Ice Edge and city officials is a significant step toward purchase of the Coyotes from the NHL. It was presented to the council in a close-door session on Friday, then the item was posted on the agenda for the council's regularly scheduled meeting next Tuesday.
Ice Edge, a group of mostly Canadian investors, would have exclusive negotiating rights for 60 days unless another potential buyer gives US$25 million to the city to cover its obligations to the NHL. Ice Edge also has to present a term sheet to the city from a lender proving it has the financial backing to buy the team.
The only other potential buyer has been a group headed by Chicago sports mogul Jerry Reinsdorf and there was no indication it was willing to make that commitment.
The NHL bought the team out of bankruptcy last September with the intention of selling it to someone who would keep it in Glendale, where the team has lost tens of millions of dollars in recent seasons.
Purchase of the team is contingent on a new lease agreement with Glendale for the Coyotes to play at Jobing.com Arena.
"This has been a long process for everyone involved with many peaks and valleys," said Ice Edge chief executive officer Anthony LeBlanc. "We are happy to be in a position to hopefully move forward with our plans for the Coyotes. However, there still is a lot of work to be done starting with the approval of our MOU by Glendale city council."
Earlier, the council approved a memorandum for the Reinsdorf group but rejected the Ice Edge proposal.
Later, city officials approached Ice Edge asking if it would return to the bargaining table. At one point, Ice Edge walked away from those talks, but later returned.
The NHL will decide who will buy the team but if Ice Edge can work out a new lease within 60 days, it would be the only potential purchaser with the necessary lease agreement. The league has said it would look to move the troubled franchise if no buyer could be found to keep the team in Arizona.
The Coyotes never have turned a profit since the franchise moved from Winnipeg in 1996. The team had played before sparse crowds until this season, when the Coyotes set franchise records for wins. The team played before sellout crowds at season's end before falling to Detroit in seven games in the first round of the playoffs.
The agreement notes that it is important to complete the sale as soon as possible.
"It is the intention of both parties," the memorandum reads, "to proceed with negotiations of the necessary agreements without delay with the desire to have agreements completed for approval within 60 days."