IceArizona completes purchase of Coyotes

Updated: 08/05/2013 4:05 PM KSTP.com

(AP) GLENDALE, Ariz. - The Phoenix Coyotes finally have an owner.

IceArizona completed its purchase of the franchise from the NHL on Monday and received approval from the league’s Board of Governors, ending a four-year search for an owner in the desert.

Completion of the sale triggers a $225 million lease agreement for Jobing.com Arena reached last month by the city of Glendale and Renaissance Sports and Entertainment, managing partner of IceArizona,

"The National Hockey League believes in Arizona as an NHL market and that these new owners can provide the Coyotes the opportunity to secure a stable, long-term future in Glendale," Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement.

RSE, headed by George Gosbee and Anthony LeBlanc, completed the deal after numerous suitors came forward and then fell away.

The saga started in 2009, when former owner Jerry Moyes took the team into bankruptcy in a failed attempt to sell it to Blackberry founder Jim Balsillie, who would have moved the franchise to Hamilton, Ontario. The NHL and Glendale fought the plan in court and the team was sold to the league later that year.

The Coyotes appeared to have an owner in place when Chicago businessman Matthew Hulsizer was set to buy the team two years ago, but his bid was thwarted by the conservative watchdog group Goldwater Institute, which warned potential bond buyers to stay away from the Glendale offering because of a looming lawsuit.

A group headed by former San Jose Sharks CEO Greg Jamison reached an agreement with the NHL to buy the team last year, but his deal fell apart when he was unable to secure finances before a lease-agreement deadline with Glendale in January.

The Coyotes didn’t let the ownership situation become a distraction on the ice the first three years, reaching the playoffs despite the financial constraints of being run by the league. A looming resolution to the saga _ the NHL was likely going to relocate the team if the RSE deal fell through _ finally took its toll last season, when the Coyotes finished four points out of the Western Conference’s final playoff spot after making the conference finals for the first time the year before.

RSE went through contentious negotiations with Glendale on a lease agreement before the City Council approved it in a special session on July 3. The deal was spurred by RSE’s partnership with Global Spectrum, which owns the Philadelphia Flyers and manages 113 facilities around the world.

The Coyotes were able to sign general manager Don Maloney, assistant general manager Brad Treliving and coach Dave Tippett, along with most of his staff, before the lease deal was completed. Once it was in place, the new ownership group gave the front office the financial freedom it didn’t have in four years of being run by the NHL, allowing the team to sign front-line forward Mike Ribeiro.

"We thank the Coyotes’ devoted fans for their patient, perseverant support," Bettman said. "We are extremely pleased that a positive resolution has been achieved for the fans, the city, the Coyotes and the League."

The team’s name will be changed to Arizona Coyotes sometime after next season.

(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)