Canada group eyes Phoenix bid

Updated: March 28, 2013, 11:34 AM ET
By Scott Burnside | ESPN.com

Canadian financier George Gosbee emerged Thursday as part of a group of fellow Canadian investors who hope to close a deal to purchase the Phoenix Coyotes from the NHL for $170 million as early as next week, a source told ESPN.com.

The news, from a source familiar with the sale process, is a welcome change as the NHL edges toward the fourth anniversary of ownership of the financially moribund franchise.

Canadian investment banker and financier Gosbee represents a small group of investors to join forces with another Canadian businessman, Anthony LeBlanc. LeBlanc and his partners have been trying to take control of the Coyotes for three years in an effort to bring to a close the team's long ownership saga, a source told ESPN.com.

The group hopes to close the deal as early as next week, after which they would work with the City of Glendale to hammer out a new lease agreement at Jobing.com Arena where the Coyotes play.

The team was on the verge of being sold earlier this year but Greg Jamison, the former CEO of the San Jose Sharks, could not come up with the required financing to purchase the team and he has ceased to be a factor in the team's potential sale.

Jamison had negotiated a 20-year lease agreement with the City of Glendale that would have paid $324 million in management fees to Jamison and his ownership group over the life of the deal. But that lease agreement went off the table when Jamison could not come up with financing to buy the team, which means a new agreement must hammered out with the city before transfer of the team can be completed.

But it's believed that if an agreement is reached with the league for the sale of the team, something that has not been accomplished in the past because the focus has been primarily on the lease agreement, a new lease agreement that would keep the team in Glendale long-term should be achievable.

Gosbee, a Calgary resident, is the head of AltaCorp, an Alberta-based investment bank tied to the Alberta Treasury Board. He has also been involved in the restructuring of Chrysler, representing Canadian investments in the company, and was a part of a committee advising the federal government in Canada on economic issues. He is a passionate Canadian and dedicated hockey fan, a source familiar with Gosbee told ESPN.com.

In a 2012 profile in The Globe And Mail newspaper in 2012 Gosbee confided he has a maple leaf tattoo -- a piece of body art acquired when he was in his late teens.

Gosbee and his group of investors have been working with LeBlanc, whose IceEdge Group has been involved in the purchase process off and on for three years. The potential owners have been in contact with the NHL in recent days and are working toward finalizing a purchase proposal even as reports have circulated that the NHL is exploring relocation options in case a deal to finally sell the team cannot be brokered.

Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told ESPN.com Thursday the league's focus remains on finding an owner to keep the team in Glendale.

The fact that a new realignment plan has recently been adopted by both the NHL and the National Hockey League Players' Association to go into effect next season supports the league's position.

The new realignment plan calls for two eight-team divisions to be based in the eastern part of North America with two seven-team divisions in the western part of the continent. If the Coyotes are to be moved after this season -- multiple sources have told ESPN.com the league will not operate the team in Glendale for another season if new owners can't be found -- it's believed that Quebec City is the most viable location. Moving the team to Quebec, another eastern-based team, would create more problems with realignment.

Seattle is another possible relocation city, but the lack of a viable arena plan there makes an immediate move to that city unlikely.

There has been discussion regarding a new arena in Seattle that could house both an NBA and NHL franchise, but those plans are being held up by the fight to keep the Sacramento Kings in California. Even if the NBA does return to Seattle and the new arena moves forward, the NHL would still need to find an owner who would buy the Coyotes and then work out arrangements for shared space in Seattle.

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