The Phoenix Coyotes soap opera just got much more interesting again yesterday, when bankruptcy court judge Redfield T. Baum announced that any and all bids for the team will be accepted at a September 10 auction, including those from prospective owners who would move the team. And yes, that includes Jim Balsillie, whose offer to buy the team and move it to Hamilton, Ontario Baum rejected in June.
Baum didn’t say why he’d changed his mind, but it couldn’t have helped that the only two local bidders have started looking more and more troubled in the past week. The lets-play-a-bunch-of-games-in-Saskatoon consortium was already getting laughed at in Canada. Then it was revealed that Jerry Reinsdorf’s bid would require the city of Glendale to pay him $23 million next year from a sales tax surcharge, and up to $15 million a year after that, or else the team would be relocated. (This was revealed in court papers filed by current Coyotes owner Jerry Moyes, who favored Balsillie’s bid; Moyes is currently facing possible contempt charges for revealing the documents, which the city claims were supposed to be secret.)
The Arizona Cardinals immediately filed papers opposing any tax on their tickets to bail out the Coyotes — or, more to the point, Reinsdorf, who could easily recoup his entire $148 million bid through public tax money — while the Coyotes’ biggest creditor, Michael Dell of computer fame, objected to the Reinsdorf bid as well. (Baum specifically cited Dell’s opposition in his decision.)
As for what happens at the September auction, all bets are off: Baum has previously agreed that the NHL has the right to approve or deny franchise sales, so there’s a significant chance that Balsillie could win the auction, but still be denied the team. And no matter who wins, there are sure to be plenty of lawsuits filed by the losers.