You hear that clanging? That's the clock striking midnight, according to Scott Burnside:
The most promising potential buyer of the beleaguered Phoenix Coyotes to come along since the team was thrown into bankruptcy two years ago has walked away from the process, a source told ESPN.com on Monday afternoon.
Chicago businessman Matthew Hulsizer, who had hoped to have a deal in place to purchase the team from the NHL last spring, had set aside over $100 million for the purchase of the team but ongoing issues over a new arena lease agreement with the City of Glendale have led to Hulsizer withdrawing from the deal.
Burnside reports that after that lease proposal was approved by the Glendale City Council — ostensibly clearing the way for Hulsizer to purchase the team — Hulsizer produced "an alternative proposal that would have given the city more flexibility in managing the lease deal." After that proposal stalled, sources said Hulsizer bailed.
Hulsizer is still interested in buying another National Hockey League franchise but is not longer trying to buy the Coyotes, according an official familiar with the situation.
The official, who asked not to be identified, said the Hulsizer ownership group did not want to go through another several-month process of Glendale trying to sell the Coyotes to their group or other potential owners.
Sources familiar with the deal said late last week that Glendale was talking to Hulsizer and two other potential owners: Chicago Bulls and White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf and another unnamed group.
Reinsdorf's been in the Coyotes' picture for over two years, popping in and out of the scene when the NHL seemingly needed a well-funded alternative when things fell apart with the franchise sale. And here he is again!
The city approved funds to keep the team on Glendale for the 2011-12 season, but Hulsizer was seen as the best option for keeping it there for years to come. The local political pressure, the Glendale's flaccid approach to getting this deal done, proved too much for him; will it prevent another buyer from keeping the Coyotes local?
The NHL is reportedly working with the city to find more favorable lease terms, according to the Business Journal:
A new proposal could involve lower city bond levels to help avoid a legal challenge by the the Goldwater Institute, as well as changes to the NHL's assumed $170 million asking price and how much cash a potential owner is putting toward the sale.
Oh boy … so what does this news affect more: Next year's season-ticket sales for the Coyotes, such as they are, or the 2012 realignment plan?
UPDATE: Official statement from the Coyotes - "The City of Glendale and the National Hockey League continue to negotiate with other interested parties to secure new ownership for the Phoenix Coyotes. The objective continues to be to transition ownership of the Club to an interested purchaser in the coming months."