PHOENIX - The prospective owner of the Phoenix Coyotes was unable to complete his purchase of the team before a lease agreement deal with the City of Glendale expired, a league official told The Associated Press on Thursday.
Greg Jamison issued the following statement Thursday night:
We will not be able to complete our purchase of the Phoenix Coyotes today in time to meet our deadline with the city of Glendale. However, our journey to purchase the Coyotes will continue. We realize this will require additional conversations with the city of Glendale and the NHL. We still believe we can reach an agreement that satisfies everyone. We hope negotiations with the city proceed as smoothly as possible, as everyone involved wants the Coyotes to remain in Arizona.
Jamison had until midnight Thursday to complete his purchase of the Coyotes from the NHL under terms of a 20-year, $308 million lease agreement with Glendale for Jobing.com Arena.
New Glendale Mayor Jerry Weiers has said he will not extend the lease deal, opening up the possibility of other potential bidders to compete with Jamison to buy the team.
The city issued this response on Friday: The city and the current owner of the Coyotes, the National Hockey League, will continue to work together on a solution that is in the best interest of Glendale and our citizens. The next step involves seeking direction from the City Council to determine how to move forward with this process. The arena was built to serve as a catalyst for the economic growth that has occurred in Glendale's Sport & Entertainment District, and its success remains a priority for the city.
Jamison was not able to pull together the funds and investors he needed in time to meet the deadline and will likely have to renegotiate with Glendale if he is able to purchase the team from the NHL, continuing a saga that has lasted more than three years.
"Obviously, it's a frustrating time, but we have no control over it," Coyotes goalie Mike Smith said. "It's something we can't really solve, otherwise we'd buy the team if we could. We've just got to worry about winning hockey games and playing to the best of our abilities, and hopefully it'll work itself out."
On Friday the Coyotes issued this statement: "Today, we were informed by the National Hockey League that Mr. Jamison was unable to close on his purchase of the Coyotes. Mr. Jamison will continue to work with the NHL and the City of Glendale to close a deal that will keep the Coyotes in the Valley. Although there is no set timetable, hopefully it will be soon. The Coyotes will continue to be owned by the NHL and nothing changes for our organization. We will work hard on and off the ice to provide our fans with a winning team that they can be proud of. We would like to thank all of our great fans and corporate partners for their incredible patience and loyalty throughout this process. We know it's been difficult and we appreciate their support."
The ownership dilemma started in 2009, when former owner Jerry Moyes took the team into bankruptcy in a bid to sell to Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie, who would move the franchise to Hamilton, Ontario. The NHL vehemently opposed that plan and a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge later refused to allow the sale to go through.
With no one else stepping forward, the NHL bought the team and started running it with the intention of finding a buyer who would keep the team in Arizona. It's been a drawn-out process filled with false starts and dashed hopes.
The league thought it had an owner in place when Chicago businessman Matthew Hulsizer stepped forward, but his bid fell through when the conservative watchdog group Goldwater Institute inserted itself into the process and warned potential bond buyers to stay away from the Glendale offering because of a looming lawsuit.
Amid speculation that the Coyotes would return to Winnipeg, where the franchise relocated from in 1996, Jamison came forward as a potential buyer last year.
The NHL announced during last year's playoffs that it had a preliminary agreement to sell the team to Jamison and he later worked out a lease agreement with Glendale for Jobing.com Arena despite opposition from Goldwater.
Jamison's bid to buy the team cleared a big hurdle when Glendale voters in November's election upheld a 0.7 percent sales tax increase designed to help the city's finances. He also reworked the lease agreement with the city, setting a Jan. 31 deadline for Jamison to purchase the team from the NHL.
But Jamison may have been hurt by the 113-day NHL lockout and was unable to secure the finances he needed to finish off the deal in time.
And so the wait for an owner continues.
"We'll just kind of move on with what we need to do on the ice," Coyotes forward Raffi Torres said. "We're not really worried with what's going on off the ice right now."
They've had plenty of practice at it by now.