After four years of being owned by the National Hockey League, the sale of the Phoenix Coyotes was finalized this week to a group of investors who intend to keep the team in Arizona, at least for the next five years.
The Coyotes franchise was sold by the NHL to the IceArizona group, led by George Gosbee and Anthony LeBlanc of Renaissance Sports & Entertainment. The US $170 million sale was approved on Monday by the NHL’s Board of Governors.
In addition to Gosbee and LeBlanc, the IceArizona group includes nine other members that will claim ownership in the beleaguered franchise, most of whom are Canadian businessmen.
“I think it’s every Canadian boy’s dream to own a hockey team,” beamed Gosbee. “I’ve always wanted to, but it had to be the right deal. When I started talking with Anthony [LeBlanc] and [IceArizona group’s] Daryl [Jones] over the years, I think the right deal was in the making here in January. I wanted to own the team because I thought, at the end of the day, it’s a sound investment.”
How sound of an investment it was to purchase such a besieged franchise remains to be seen. Former team owner Jerry Moyes put the team into bankruptcy four years ago and numerous parties saw negotiations to purchase the organization break down before completion.
Still, IceArizona has left itself with an out in their fifteen-year agreement. When negotiating their arena lease with Glendale, AZ’s Jobing.com Arena, the group was afforded an out-clause that would allow them to forego the final ten years of their lease should the first five years not be the “sound investment” that Gosbee has proclaimed it to be.
Gosbee has attempted to encumber any skepticism that this out-clause has created for his intentions of keeping the team in Arizona, pointing out that the majority of the Canadian investors in his group hold business connections within the state of Arizona.
“I’m a good, solid Canadian, like a good number of people in this ownership group, and unfortunately it’s very difficult for people to accept that hockey can be successful in a non-traditional market, but we like to point to markets like San Jose and Dallas, even in the Carolinas, where hockey has thrived,” Gosbee explains. “We feel that the same thing will happen here, but the reality is it’s an investment and we have to protect ourselves… hence, the reason for the out-clause.”
In a written statement, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman added, “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.”
In an effort to show their commitment to the city of Glendale, the IceArizona group will be rebranding their team as the Arizona Coyotes, likely taking effect for the 2014-15 season.
How sound of an investment are the Coyotes for IceArizona? Will they be packing their bags and leaving Glendale in five years? Leave a comment or tweet me @BostonNumber9 or my team @TMMotS and @FanSidedNHL.