Coyotes Ownership Deal

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A new ownership deal for the Arizona Coyotes could be slipping away. Mike Sunnucks of the Phoenix Business Journal will provide details.

Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. A new ownership deal for the Arizona Coyotes could be slipping away. Here with the latest is Mike Sunnucks of "The Phoenix Business Journal." Mike, good to have you here. The New York post is coming out with a story that this new ownership deal is failing. What's going on here?

Mike Sunnucks: We weren't supposed to be back here talking about the coyotes until 2018. We've been through all the saga, the bankruptcy, the NHL owned them since 2009. Summer 2013 this group called Ice Arizona bought them, we're going to keep them here in the Phoenix market but then earlier this year, turned out that this hedge fund manager Andrew Barroway who tried to buy the New Jersey Devils, the New York Islanders, was going to buy a majority interest from this Ice Arizona team, now there seems to be some questions about whether that's going to go through, the New York Post has been reporting on this from other places. Question whether it's going to happen at all, whether he's going to pull out, you know, there was some league meetings with league owners down in Florida. And people kind of thought well maybe this is when they'll approve it. They didn't. And so we're getting kind of the same song and dance that these things take a while, and it's just another chapter in this ongoing saga about unstable ownership, uncertain future here in this market here out in Glendale.

Ted Simons: Let's get to the future.

Mike Sunnucks: He's a hedge fund manager in Arizona, has been interested in buying teams, tried to buy the Devils, the Islanders which has also had some issues. They're moving to Brooklyn. And so he struck a deal to buy 51% of the Coyotes. So there was questions about when that popped up, why are the current owners who owned the team for a little over a year, why are they selling? They said well we're going to better capitalize the team, we've got a new guy coming in with a lot of money, other folks said maybe it's not going as well as we thought or as they had hoped and they were looking to cash out a little bit.

Ted Simons: Do we know why he's backing away?

Mike Sunnucks: There's not -- there's a lot of questions about why he's doing that, where he's coming from and where he might be going because there's questions about the Coyotes's future and the Florida Panthers down in Miami, way worse attendance that even the Coyotes have. There's questions about that and whether the NHL is going to move teams to places like Las Vegas or Quebec city or Portland, Oregon or Seattle. There's a lot of questions about maybe he could buy the Panthers, maybe he could get an expansion franchise to do that or maybe he's looking to buy the Coyotes and move them. So a lot of moving parts that people aren't sure about.

Ted Simons: As far as the Coyotes are concerned, the New York Post is also reporting that the general manager has been told by current ownership, the ones that are still there, shed payroll. What do you make of that?

Mike Sunnucks: They've gotten rid of some players. They're not playing very well. They're not winning at home. They're in a tough division. The playoff prospects aren't great right now. And they have shed some players. And this has gone on throughout this whole process, too. They have a hard time keeping free agents, people have left but if there's a fire sale, somebody like that goes, you know something's up. -- if that's not -- if they can't keep their core players, there's a question about they can get rid of them because they want a youth movement, try some young kids in there or because they want to shed payroll and, you know, does that make it more likely to move or maybe somebody else is going to come in and buy them? A lot of uncertainty. The coyotes are saying no the deal's still going forward. We'll see by the trade decline if the captain of the team or some other notable players that get paid a good bit, if they leave, the writing's on the world.

Ted Simons: Can current ownership hang on? I know they lost $25 million last year. That arena deal says if they lose $50 million, like over five years, they have an out clause. They're halfway to the out clause after one year.

Mike Sunnucks: That team has been losing $25 million routinely throughout the years. The ownership there, they've signed some naming rights deals, the Gila River tribe took over the naming rights. BMW, some other stuff, ticket sales are a little better. And they were hoping that they would show some stability, we're going to stay here, we're not owned by the NHL. They had some successes there. It's hard to gauge how much money they're bringing in from those deals. It's hard to gauge really how successful or not successful those are. But the Coyotes ownership dispute some of these stories that are out there. The thing is still progressing and there's not a fire sale. We know at trade deadline and if this thing totally falls apart, we're back into the situation of are they going to move to Seattle or Quebec or Vegas?

Ted Simons: As far as this new ownership deal and the possibility of the new ownership deal, how does that impact the arena deal? Does that negate it in any way or alter it?

Mike Sunnucks: They weren't sure. If it's the same structure, if he's buying into the ownership, maybe it doesn't change it. If the ownership structure, a whole new entity comes in and buys it, maybe it would change it. It didn't seem like it was a fait accompli. That's the last thing Glendale wants to do. They went through seven or eight incarnations of arena deals and ownership groups and trying to get something to keep the team here and they finally got something done, and now a year and a half later, they don't want to have to go back to the drawing board. They have new council, Mayor Weiers, there will be a lot of fatigue out there. It was already tough enough to get something done. If he comes in and buys 51%, they may be able to keep the same arena deal there, which would seep Glendale out of the cross hairs.

Ted Simons: Already Barroway has tried to by in New Jersey and New York and that area. It seems to me that if a team is going to be past that $50 million loss in three instead of five years, that would be the new area of concern.

Mike Sunnucks: Sure. Any owner can go out there and shop, the franchise to other cities. Vegas popped up recently as a possible market. There's some interest there. Quebec city is trying to build an arena. Some of these markets, Seattle, Portland were interested in the Coyotes before when the ownership situation was uncertain. They could pop up again and you've got a distressed property, you're going to see what the best bid is. It may go back to Glendale, what can we get out of you guys? And we'll see what the city does. Usually, when these teams move, the host city, you saw this in Atlanta, we can't do any more. We've done enough. Nothing's going to save this. If these other cities pony it up, we'll see, but the NHL, you know, throughout the whole process was such a staunch supporter of keeping the team here. Gary Bettman, the commissioner of the NHL and Bill Daly his deputy, they fought tooth and nail to keep the team here. I think they're somewhat invested in trying to keep the team here but if there's a better deal in Seattle, you know, or Vegas, you could see them moving.

Ted Simons: You mentioned Glendale has fatigue. I imagine NHL is starting to feel is, as well.

Mike Sunnucks: The NHL unlike maybe the NFL, some of the stronger leagues has some problem childs out there, the devils, the Florida Panthers. They really have issues.

Ted Simons: Mike, good stuff. Good to have you here.

Mike Sunnucks:Journalist, Phoenix Business Journal;

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