Bankruptcy judge approves sale of Coyotes to NHL

CHICAGO Mon Nov 2, 2009 4:30pm EST

Phoenix Coyotes fans celebrate the white out against the Columbus Blue Jackets during an NHL hockey game in Glendale, Arizona, October 10, 2009. REUTERS/Rick Scuteri

Phoenix Coyotes fans celebrate the white out against the Columbus Blue Jackets during an NHL hockey game in Glendale, Arizona, October 10, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Rick Scuteri

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CHICAGO (Reuters) - A federal bankruptcy judge on Monday approved the sale of the Phoenix Coyotes to the National Hockey League.

Judge Redfield Baum approved the NHL's $140 million purchase in a hearing at the U.S. bankruptcy Court in Phoenix, Arizona, said Thomas Salerno of Squire Sanders & Dempsey, the attorney for the debtors, Coyotes Hockey LLC, which filed for bankruptcy in May.

NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said the league was encouraged by the decision and would work to close the deal quickly.

"The league also will engage immediately in a process to identify and expedite sale of the franchise to new ownership that is committed to the club's long-term success in the Phoenix/Glendale area," Daly said in a statement.

In September, Baum rejected bids by the NHL and Canadian billionaire James Balsillie, co-chief executive of BlackBerry maker Research in Motion who wanted to move the Coyotes to Canada. However, the judge left the door open for the NHL to resubmit its bid.

The NHL initially submitted its bid in August in an effort to remove the team's sale from bankruptcy-court oversight, with the intention of later reselling it.

The North American sports league had assumed the team's losses since it filed for bankruptcy.

The Coyotes have never made money since moving to the Phoenix suburb of Glendale from Winnipeg, Manitoba in 1996.

Earlier bidders for the Coyotes included a group led by Jerry Reinsdorf, owner of the Chicago White Sox baseball and Chicago Bulls basketball teams, and Ice Edge Holdings LLC, a group of Canadian and U.S. businessmen.

The Coyotes and the team's operations are out of bankruptcy, while the Chapter 11 case will continue to distribute funds to the creditors, Salerno said.

(Reporting by Ben Klayman)

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