BY Art Thiel 03:36PM 02/02/2013

Sale of NHL Coyotes fails; Seattle on move list

The NHL’s most woebegone franchise, the Phoenix Coyotes, remains a ward of the league after prospective buyer prospective buyer Greg Jamison missed a deadline Thursday for purchase set by the city of Glendale, AZ.

For nearly four years, the NHL has owned the team as it struggles in the Phoenix marketplace. The latest development revived speculation about relocating the franchise. Seattle is likely at or near the top of the list. The other potential relocation sites are Quebec City and Markham, Ont., a suburb north of Toronto that last week voted to fund an NHL-level arena.

Seattle native Chris Hansen has included an NHL franchise in his plans for a $500 million arena in SoDo, but has made two things clear: His first priority is securing an NBA franchise, and he believes the arena deal will be viable financially even without a second pro sports franchise as co-anchor tenant.

He has yet to secure approval for the arena in SoDo, which awaits results of an environmental impact statement not expected until fall. There is no NHL-sized facility to house a franchise temporarily, at least south of Vancouver or north of Portland.

Hansen’s investor group, which includes Microsoft chairman Steve Ballmer, has made an offer of $340 million for 65 percent of the Sacramento Kings, based on a total value of $525 million. But the deal has run into resistance from Sacramento politicians and business people fearful of losing the city’s only pro sports franchise.

A counteroffer has been promised by Mayor Kevin Johnson, and NBA commissioner David Stern has committed to giving it consideration. Among the potential investors is Ron Burkle, a billionaire California supermarket magnate who is also owner of the NHL Pittsburgh Penguins.

Burkle met with Stern this week to discuss his interest. Another story about Burkle’s ambitions emerged this week when the Sacramento Bee reported that Burkle is in a group that is among three final bidders for the sports/entertainment firm AEG (Anschutz Entertainment Group), which operates arenas for eight NBA teams as well as KeyArena, the Sonics’ former home in Seattle.

Rumored asking price for one of the most successful companies of its kind in the world is $8 billion.

A year ago, AEG committed $59 million to building a new arena in downtown Sacramento in order to keep the Kings. A deal was struck between the city and the Kings owners, the Maloof family, which included the AEG contribution. But the deal fell apart weeks later when the Maloofs backed out, indicating there wasn’t enough in it for them. The Maloofs said they would not sell the team, keeping it in the outdated Sleep Train Arena in suburban Natomas, but quietly negotiated with Hansen and signed a purchase-and-sale agreement.

The sale must be approved by two-thirds of NBA owners, a vote that could occur in a regularly scheduled meeting April 19. Relocation is a related but separate vote, application for which must be made by March 1. A simple majority of owners is needed to approve relocation.

But if Burkle’s group was the winning bidder for AEG, Sacramento’s chances for new arena would go up, according to Bee source Andy Dolich, a sports consultant and former NBA executive: “Advantage in this, I think, is clearly Sacramento’s,” he said. Burkle would be in position to direct additional AEG funding to the arena to relieve some of Sacramento’s commitment of public money.

As you can see, the Kings sale is growing complicated. Meanwhile, the NHL is finally underway with a new collective bargaining agreement after a lockout that began Sept. 15 consumed 34 games of the 82-game season.

The new CBA is said to be favorable to owners. But the league owns the Coyotes and wants to stop the bleeding. Asking price is reportedly around $170 million, but a part of its value comes from the unusual lease provisions that were to have been part of the deal offered Jamison.

Glendale’s city council, desperate to keep the team in the city-owned facility, agreed to pay $308 million over the lease’s 20 years, about $15 million a year, in “management fees” to the team’s ownership. The direct public subsidy generated huge political heat in a time when tax money grow scarce for basic public services.

Jamison, former CEO of the NHL San Jose Sharks, was unable to muster the capital needed to make the deal work by the Jan. 31 deadline.

The Arizona Republic reported that a separate group of investors is prepared to step into the void created by Jamison’s failure to produce the money he repeatedly insisted he would deliver. The question is whether Glendale officials will agree to extend the lease agreement to a new group. A mayor and four of seven council members have been elected since since the proposal with Jamison was struck, and may want a better deal for the city.

There are no deadlines, but unless a new group can get Jamison’s public subsidy, relocation looms larger. A lease deal with a new group would be Glendale’s eighth attempt at saving the franchise.

NHL deputy commissioner Billy Daly said in a statement Friday: “We remain hopeful the Coyotes sale process will be resolved successfully and we will continue to work with the City of Glendale to move the process forward.”

Regarding relocation, the NHL probably prefers Seattle because of market size. The league would be losing Phoenix after already losing Atlanta 18 months ago, when the Thrashers moved to Winnipeg.

No reports of names of NHL buyers in Hansen’s group have emerged. His attention has been devoted to the Kings’ sale. While it’s possible that a sale to Hansen could be approved before relocation, Hansen is unlikely to move ahead if it means operating the team in Sacramento even for a year.




  • Billy Bob

    A Bee source says advantage Sacramento? Im stunned Art.

    • art thiel

      Don’t have to believe the source’s opinion, but it’s the same guy who said good things about Hansen’s chances at the time of the PSA. Things go back and forth in this thing, Billy Bob. Sorry if it rubs your fur the wrong way.

      • Billy Bob

        and what does this source say about KJ’s whale he supposedly had lined up and ready to go last Monday?

        • art thiel

          Again, things go back and forth. This is not a game with four quarters and nine innings and delay-of-game penalties. It’s a complicated business deal involving monopolies, municipalities and billionaires, none of which are answerable to you or me.

  • Local Sports Fan

    With all of the negative articles you post on this topic, I get the sense you don’t want it to happen. I’m disappointed. I thought, based on the headline this article would explore the potential for the NHL to come to Seattle, but you once again focus excessively on the roadblocks for an arena and how success of a Sacramento bid seems more and more likely. I don’t think I will be visiting your site again.

    • art thiel

      Just trying to keep you updated, Local. It’s called news. If you prefer cheerleading, best you seek out cheerleaders. I’m not the ones trying to keep the Kings in Sacramento. Complain to Mayor Kevin Johnson and the his backers.

      • billy bob

        What about KJs odd silence since his talk with Stern? Before that it was daily 2pm press conferences? Don’t you think Hansen/Ballmer would have consulted Stern and the NBA before making this purchase and plopping down $30 Mil?

        • art thiel

          Lots going on here, BB, that I don’t know and you don’t know. It’s like watching a ballroom dance through a keyhole. Deep breath, pal. The doors will open eventually.

          • Billy Bob

            Thanks for the tip

  • Like I’ve been saying for weeks, AEG is a major conflict of interest in the Kings to Seattle saga. They own part of LA Lakers and run arenas for 8 NBA teams? How many votes are needed again to not approve or deny relocation? How interesting and possibly convenient. If I’d say there is is a major anti-trust issue happening if they in fact, do not allow the move OR provide an expansion time in 2 years time to Seattle, This of course, only matters if in fact: “Antitrust laws prohibit agreements by two or more that restrain trade in interstate commerce.”

    • art thiel

      AEG is major player in this saga, including being a potential arena manager, as they are already at the Key. But because the company is for sale, the permutations of its involvement are nearly endless. Good to keep an eye on its role, but since no one has committed to anything, it’s hard to draw conclusions.

  • Arts daddy

    Hes protecting his buddies at the mariners.

    • art thiel

      Mariners will be thrilled to know.

  • jafabian

    I imagine the NHL would rather not move the Coyotes since in recent years the Thrashers moved to Winnipeg and the Islanders moved to Brooklyn. Granted the Islanders are still in the NY area but they aren’t exactly across the street from their previous location either and have a whole new season ticket base to sell to. Moving another franchise so soon after a long lockout can’t be good for a league trying to rehabilitate its image to its fanbase.

    Thought maybe the Oilers would be moving here since their ownership along with Wayne Gretzky were seen at a Seahawk game but predictably they parlayed the publicity of that visit into a new arena deal for themselves. Since Phoenix is the 6th largest city in the US according to the 2010 census and the 12th largest market it would make more sense from the NHL’s perspective to do expansion but then, the NHL is not a league about making sense. Not sure I’m too thrilled about the 2013-2014 season being all about two transplanted teams in Seattle either. Though really, after being used by the NBA as a threat to what could happen to a city if they don’t play ball in arena deals it’s funny to see that shoe possibly on the other foot.

    Still, I’m actually more psyched at the possibility of an NHL team being in Seattle than an NBA team. And I’ve followed the Sonics since their beginnings.

    • art thiel

      To your last point: You reflect a current of thinking that seems to persist among some fans about NBA alienation. But by the time a Seattle NBA team makes the playoffs, my guess is you and many others will be back on the bandwagon.

      • jafabian

        Oh, I’m partially on the bandwagon but it’ll never be as it used to be. There will always be that train of thought that the NBA could pull out at any time despite any lease agreement if all parties involved agree. The prospect of something new that wants to be here is more interesting than a league that has been silent for the most part on returning to Seattle. But believe me, I still have Sonic green in me.

  • WenatcheeMike

    What about the Tacoma Dome for Hockey for a year? High on capacity – low on amenities, But better sight lines for Hockey than the Key…

    • Liggie

      By itself, the Dome’s hockey sight lines are subpar, especially at the bottom where there’s a huge walkway between the fans and the rink. That’s likely why the WHL Rockets left. Still, there are no obstructed seats like at the Key, and it did get crowds north of 15,000 for games against the Seattle Thunderbirds. An NHL team could live with that for a year during the SoDo arena construction.

      • art thiel

        Your point about the poor slope of lower bowl seats is the deal-breaker. The best hockey arenas are steeply pitched. T-Dome can’t be re-jiggered in any way that makes sense.

        • Liggie

          They could make the rink Olympic size, 100 feet wide instead of the North American 85 feet. It would bring the fans closer to the game, and it would open up play as there would be more room on the ice.

    • art thiel

      It all the years of speculation about NHL in this market, no one has mentioned the T-Dome as a viable NHL arena, even temporarily. Unless, of course, an owner wants to trick up the place on his dime for a two- or three-year rental. We’re not there yet.

  • Local Sports Fan

    The NHL part is news. The comments on Sacramento and the status of the Seattle arena deal are cold water that you repeatedly dump in your articles and those stories haven’t changed. Not looking for cheerleading, more interested in why you insist on tempering every story related to the arena instead of letting the story stand for itself.

    • art thiel

      Local, some people aren’t as savvy as you and sometimes it helps when a story brings everyone up to speed on related developments. I’m not tempering any story; I’m putting forward what’s known, and what is reasonably speculated, about possible outcomes. I don’t think in terms of hot or cold water; that’s your filter as someone eager to see the story play your way.

  • RadioGuy

    No question that Seattle is a very attractive market for the NHL but while the Key would be okay as a temporary facility for an NBA team, it isn’t up to hosting major league hockey because it just doesn’t hold enough people and has awful sightlines for hockey since the renovations (thanks, Barry).
    Having lots of TV sets where you play is a nice thing but, as the NHL has learned in major markets Atlanta and now Phoenix, it’s no guarantee of success. I’m pretty certain the NHL will come to Seattle, but only after the new arena is open. As for the Coyotes? If they’re moved, Quebec is the better choice.

    • art thiel

      True dat, Radio. As the story mentioned, no place to play here until Hansen’s arena is ready. Still believe it’s an open question as to whether Seattle will support financially so many teams.

      • Big Billy Bob

        You never know until you try, Art. Similar sized and less affluent markets such as Denver, Minneapolis, and Detroit seem be able to.

      • Don Levin seems to think the Key is more than adequate to house an NHL team until a new arena is built. As he said, “They (SJ Sharks) played in the Cow Palace.”

  • Michael Kaiser

    I would be all for the NHL coming to town. Ship has sailed in my world for having much interest in the NBA culture, but the NHL is an entirely different matter. In fact, I would rather see the NHL than anything excepting perhaps, can you believe this, the Mariners.

    • art thiel

      Michael, good to hear you’re for something. The NHL in person is perhaps the best game to watch. Terrible on TV. I just hope you and 17000 of your friends can afford to come to NHL games.

  • TheSchwartz

    Wow, a lot of Art haters here.

    I’ve always enjoyed listening to Art on KJR, though I haven’t been to this site much since it launched.

    I’m very hopeful that an NHL team will come to Seattle, but it’s not happening unless we can get an NBA team first. You can’t tell the NHL story without the NBA story woven in.

    • art thiel

      Come around more often, Schwartz. We have a good time here.