It might not be a surprise, but hockey has struggled to survive in the desert heat. Coyotes Hockey owns and operates the Phoenix Coyotes professional hockey franchise, which plays host at Jobing.com Arena in the suburb of Glendale, Arizona. The team was originally known as the Winnipeg Jets and started playing in the fledgling World Hockey League in 1972. After joining the National Hockey League in 1979, the Jets moved to the Arizona desert in 1996. The NHL purchased the team out of bankruptcy in 2009 from a group led by trucking magnate Jerry Moyes, founder and owner of Swift Transportation, and hockey great Wayne Gretzky.
The Coyotes, like other professional sports clubs, depends on a large and passionate fan base in order to generate revenue through gate receipts, broadcasting fees, and merchandise sales. Unfortunately, hockey has failed to take root in the Arizona climate. Citing heavy losses and debt, the team's ownership took the unusual step of filing for bankruptcy in 2009 in an attempt to sell the franchise. Equally as rare in modern sports, the league's takeover of the Coyotes was part of an effort to save the franchise and keep it in Phoenix.
The NHL purchased the hockey club for $140 million, including almost $12 million for claims by unsecured creditors. It plans to operate the Coyotes for the 2009-10 season while searching for a new ownership group to take control and try and turn around the struggling team. It hopes to find investors who will want the team to remain in Glendale, but the NHL has not ruled out the possibility of moving the franchise to another market. The league's buyout mirrors Major League Baseball's acquisition of the Montreal Expos in 2002. That team later moved to Washington, DC, to become the Washington Nationals.
Under an original reorganization plan, Moyes and his partners had intended to sell the team to Canadian technology pioneer Jim Balsillie. The co-founder of BlackBerry maker Research in Motion (RIM) agreed to purchase the Coyotes for about $212 million with the understanding that he would be able to relocate the franchise to Ontario, Canada. The NHL's board of governors, however, turned down Balsillie's application to become an owner and the plan was rejected by a bankruptcy judge. Balsillie has had a long history of trying to acquire a hockey franchise, having made previous offers for both the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Nashville Predators.
Moyes and Gretzky (the Great One) became involved in the hockey franchise in 2001 when they joined with real estate developer Steve Ellman to purchase the Coyotes for $125 million. Ellman's involvement coincided with a larger deal that included not only the building of an arena for the Coyotes but also the surrounding Westgate City Center, a 223-acre mixed use real estate development. In 2006, Ellman and Moyes agreed to split their holdings, with Ellman taking control of Westgate City Center and Moyes retaining control over the Coyotes. Gretzky remained a minority partner in both ventures. That same year, Glendale Arena, the team's home ice since 2003, was renamed Jobing.com Arena after local online recruiting company Jobing.com agreed to a 10-year naming rights deal worth about $30 million.
Richard Burke and Steven Gluckstern originally bought the struggling Winnipeg Jets franchise in 1996 and moved it to Phoenix. Gluckstern later sold his share to Burke in 1998 and bought the New York Islanders (now owned by Charles Wang).
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