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Jeremy Jacobs, owner of the Boston Bruins and current chairman of the National Hockey League’s Board of Governors, is leading the fight against Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie. Last Friday, Jacobs and 25 other governors (a representative from each team) voted 26-0 against Balsillie’s application to buy the bankrupt Phoenix Coyotes.
Currently, Balsillie, co-CEO of Research in Motion, the producer of the Blackberry, does not have an active offer to buy the Coyotes franchise; his first, a $212.5 million bid contingent upon the team’s relocation to Hamilton, Ontario, was thrown out by an Arizona judge at the request of the league until they could determine proper ownership of the team after the owners filed for bankruptcy protection. However, Balsillie has repeatedly stated that he will submit a bid in the August 20th auction of the team, despite the fact that the winner of the auction will be required to keep the team in Phoenix for at least five years.
The opposition to Balsillie is the result his previous attempts to buy and relocate a team to Hamilton, a city of half of a million of people found 45 miles west of Buffalo, New York. In 2006, Balsillie attempted to buy the Pittsburgh Penguins, but was informed by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman that his ownership would be opposed because of his desire to move the team north of the border. A year later, Balsillie attempted to buy the Nashville Predators from Craig Leipold, the current owner of the Minnesota Wild, but was passed over in favor of a local group of investors headed by David Freeman. Balsillie’s brazen attempts to sell himself and the idea of a Hamilton-based franchise, which included selling season tickets to the “Hamilton Predators” to demonstrate the marketability of such a team, often rubbed NHL executives and team owners the wrong way.
In a written statement, Jacobs stated that the Board of Governors “voted to deny approval to Mr. Balsillie because we concluded he lacks the good character and integrity required of a new owner [under NHL bylaws]”. Jacobs said that his opinion and those of his fellow governors is based upon Balsillie’s previous behavior in relation to the NHL. However, it may also be the result of Balsillie’s resignation as chairman of RIM after a $250 million “accounting error.” Regardless of the reasoning, Jacobs is certainly not going to let Balsillie own the Coyotes or any other franchise in the near future.