* NHL accuses Jerry Moyes of violations of agreement
* League bought Coyotes for $140 million in November
* NHL says ex-coach Wayne Gretzky may be owed $8 million
By Jonathan Stempel
NEW YORK, March 5 The National Hockey League on
Friday sued former Phoenix Coyotes owner Jerry Moyes, seeking
to recover more than $61 million over the trucking magnate's
management of the struggling franchise.
The team filed for bankruptcy last May and was bought by
the NHL for $140 million in November. That purchase followed a
U.S. bankruptcy judge's rejection of a takeover bid by Canadian
billionaire Jim Balsillie, the co-chief executive of BlackBerry
maker Research in Motion Ltd RIM.TO.
Earl Scudder, a lawyer for Moyes, did not immediately
return a request for comment on Friday evening. Other
defendants in the case are Moyes' wife and a family trust.
The NHL filed its lawsuit with the New York State Supreme
Court in Manhattan, where the league is based.
It accused Moyes of violating an agreement he had entered
with the league by refusing to fund the Coyotes' obligations;
secretly entering sale talks with Balsillie, who hoped to move
the team to Hamilton, Ontario; and filing a bankruptcy petition
to accomplish that sale without league approval.
According to the complaint, the NHL is seeking $30 million
for violations of the agreement, $10 million for aiding and
abetting violations of the Coyotes' fiduciary duty to the
league, $10 million of punitive damages, and $11.6 million to
cover amounts that the NHL paid to Coyotes creditors.
The NHL said it may also seek to recover $8 million that
represents unpaid salary owed to Wayne Gretzky, the Hall of
Fame center and former Coyotes coach. It said whether Gretzky
is owed that money will be determined in the bankruptcy case.
In the complaint, the NHL also said it was forced to buy
the Coyotes because of the defendants' actions, and "expects to
incur approximately $20 million in losses as a result of that
purchase in the current NHL season."
Moyes and his family control the trucking company Swift
Transportation Co [SWFT.UL].
The case is National Hockey League v. Moyes et al, New York
State Supreme Court, New York County, No. 600568/2010.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel; Editing by Richard Chang)