Thursday, August 6, 2009

As The Puck Spins...

We've tried to take a little time to digest the events of the last few days. I don't know if time helps or hurts perspective, but here goes.

The one size fits all auction on September 10th is probably an OK idea.

Judge Tom's job is to do the best possible work on behalf of the team's creditors. The franchise has two secured creditors -- MSD Capital and the NHL. To date, MSD has not reached an agreement with the Reinsdorf-Kaites-Tavares-Reinsdorf Jr. group on the status of the teams $80MM secured loan.

While all that is concerning, the truth is that these types of negotiations are often hard and dirty. MSD wants their money or a new secured loan and understanding on how it will be repaid. They are an investment company, not a traditional lender. It makes sense they would like to understand who their new partners are and how they are going to operate. Jerry's Kids want great terms, perhaps even more money to operate the franchise and a new toaster when the papers are signed. It's no different than when you or I go for a loan. (Well, it is a "little" different) At the end of the day, there will be a deal. If MSD doesn't take the deal then Team Reinsdorf will shop the loan to another investor/lender. They knows that secured creditors need to be paid. That is one of the few non-negotiables in this entire mess.

Financial markets are not easy to navigate right now but operatives like Reinsdorf Sr. and Tavares know their way around. And remember, negotiations by definition are often very contentious.

From the prospective of mollifying the largest secured creditor, Judge Tom did the right thing by pushing back and combining the auctions. He gave the largest secured creditor leverage. If he ruled Balsillie out at this point, MSD would have no leverage. And Judge Tom wouldn't have done his job properly.

The backdrop of this scrum has not changed. The NHL will fight to the death to make certain the league is run by their rules. That means we decide who can own a team and we decide where the team will play. If anything happens in bankruptcy court that tries to circumvent those rules, the NHL will immediately appeal and seek injunctive relief to prevent the rules from being discarded. It will set up a long string of lawsuits, counter lawsuits and rhetoric that will make your head spin.

The NHL also has to take care of its' civic responsibility. Getting a city to build an arena is not an easy undertaking. When that happens in a city where that was really beyond their means it's an even greater risk. The NHL not only has a moral obligation to Glendale but they also have to consider their relationship with every other city that has built or is considering a new arena through public funds. You would like to think that your partner is honorable.

Judge Tom has tried very hard not to get into these messy legal areas. He knows that a Balsillie bid may never be consummated even if he decides it is the best bid. That's a big anchor that will weigh heavily in his decisions.

The Reinsdorf-Kaites-Tavares-Reinsdorf Jr. group is not likely to pull their bid. They have a chance to buy a major league team with little or no money down. They will need money to operate but we are talking about a franchise that's worth a lot of money. The chance for a financial windfall is incredible.

Ice Edge still remains a wild card. Until their bid is filed and made public, their potential ownership remains a mystery. They seem to be doing the right things -- like reaching out to Save The Coyotes Chair Heather McWhorter -- but until their financing is fully vetted and their plan disclosed, they will remain a mystery.

And as for the infamous Glendale document detailing the concessions being sought by the Reinsdorf, I would caution is that the reports of what was proposed, was was being discussed etc. were in a filing that was only visible for 90 minutes. If the good folks at the Arizona Republic captured the entire document, I'd like to see it. I would imagine that like any political proposal there were nuances, trial balloons and other parts that are simply not being reported, either because they were not captured, not sexy enough to make the paper or they represent the Moyes' attorneys synopsis of the key points and little more. I can't imagine that the city council is voting on a one sheeter that has two points -- an 11% tax district and a $15MM yearly payment if the team is still losing $ in 5 years. There's got to be more. A lot more.

And so it goes. Every time this sad episode seems to be winding down, someone pops up and says "but wait, there's more". And there will no doubt be much more. with the next round schedule to go off on Tuesday AM.

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