James Laurence "Jim" Balsillie (born February 3, 1961) is a Canadian businessman and co-CEO of the Canadian company Research In Motion.

Background[edit | edit source]

Balsillie was born in Seaforth, Ontario, and raised in Peterborough, Ontario, where his family relocated in 1966.

Hockey[edit | edit source]

Balsillie has been active in his efforts to buy a National Hockey League franchise with the overt intention of moving whichever franchise he buys to Hamilton, Ontario. He has so far bid on at least three teams: Balsillie walked away from an attempt to purchase the Pittsburgh Penguins after he claimed the NHL had interfered with the process. The Nashville Predators rebuffed his offers because of his desire to move the team to Hamilton, while a third offer to buy the bankrupt Phoenix Coyotes, with the same precondition, has been rejected.

Balsillie has also had discussions with the Buffalo Sabres about purchasing that team, but no offer was made.[1] The Sabres have been one of the largest opponents of a Hamilton NHL franchise, due to the fact that much of the Sabres' fan base comes from that territory.[2] The league itself also opposes any potential move to Hamilton.

Pittsburgh Penguins purchase bid[edit | edit source]

On October 5, 2006, Balsillie made a bid to purchase the Pittsburgh Penguins, an NHL franchise, for US$185 million from former player Mario Lemieux and his partners.

At the Penguins' home opener that evening, Balsillie appeared in the TV booth with broadcasters Paul Steigerwald and Bob Errey during the second period. Upon hearing that Errey was from Peterborough, Ontario, Balsillie's hometown, Balsillie responded with an expletive, "oh man holy shit!", that went out over live TV.[3]

The announcement came at a time that the Penguins were attempting to build a new arena. The team had reached a deal with casino operator Isle of Capri Casinos, where a new $290 million privately-funded facility would be built across the street from Mellon Arena, should the company receive a slots casino license from the state of Pennsylvania.

While Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell created an alternative to the funding plan should the casino proposal fail to materialize, Balsillie said that only the Isle of Capri plan would guarantee the Pittsburgh Penguins' future in the city.

His statements drew skepticism from fans, who believed Balsillie intended to move the team to Canada. While Balsillie refused to rule a move out, he asserted his commitment to Pittsburgh, should a new arena be built.

On December 15, 2006, Balsillie withdrew his bid to buy the team. He made the decision after receiving notice from NHL commissioner Gary Bettman that the league would negotiate the arena deal on his behalf and the league also wanted the right to take over the team if necessary.[4] The NHL's involvement before the finalization of the sale added uncertainty and excessive risk to Balsillie's venture.

Balsillie's sudden withdrawal angered Lemieux to the point that he claimed he would be able to retain Balsillie's $10 million deposit.[5] The deposit was eventually returned, perhaps in light of subsequent events - the Penguins' existing ownership eventually negotiated a new arena deal with the Pennsylvanian government, and subsequently took the team off the market.

Nashville Predators purchase bid[edit | edit source]

On May 23, 2007 it was announced that Balsillie had reached a tentative agreement to buy the Nashville Predators from Craig Leipold.[6]

Balsillie had stated that he would move the Predators to Hamilton, Ontario as soon as the 2007-08 season. The Predators' attendance was 21st in the league (in terms of percentage of capacity)[7] despite finishing with one of the league's best regular season records, thus calling into question Nashville's viability as a hockey market.

There was an exit clause in the team's lease at the Sommet Center that could be activated if attendance does not improve. Leipold himself had not ruled out a relocation, but repeatedly reassured the Nashville fans that he would do everything he could to keep the team there.

It was strongly believed that Balsillie's long-term goal was to relocate the team to Southern Ontario and that he would try to move the Predators at the earliest opportunity. Most speculation circled around Hamilton, with Balsillie's new company, Golden Horseshoe Sports & Entertainment, securing exclusive rights to bring an NHL team to Copps Coliseum, as well as the rights to operate Hamilton Place, the Hamilton Convention Centre, and the associated parking facilities.[8] Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger had stated that Balsillie's intention was to bring an NHL team to Copps in Hamilton.[9] Relocating to Hamilton would almost certainly have required compensation and/or residual rights to be granted to the Toronto Maple Leafs as they own territorial rights to the region. Buffalo may also have demanded compensation although they are out of the 80 km territorial zone set by the NHL.

On June 14, 2007 Balsillie started to accept season ticket deposits for the Hamilton Predators through Ticketmaster. He collected more than seven thousand deposits on the first day of the campaign, and within days had capped deposits for luxury boxes at 80. By June 19 Balsillie was believed to have 12,000 deposits for season tickets in Hamilton, far exceeding the Predators' season ticket base.[10] Balsillie is said to have done this to show the NHL board of Governors that Hamilton is a viable NHL market.

TSN reported on Friday, June 22, 2007, that Leipold had instructed the NHL not to consider Balsillie's application to purchase the team. A few hours later Leipold issued this statement: “We did send the NHL a letter today requesting that it not do any further due diligence on Jim Balsillie’s offer for the Nashville Predators until we reach a binding agreement. If Jim is interested in reaching a binding agreement, we are prepared to move forward.”[11]

On June 28, 2007, CBC.ca reported that Leipold had decided not to sign a binding agreement with Balsillie.[12]

Phoenix Coyotes purchase bid[edit | edit source]

See also: 2009 Bankruptcy Filing

On May 5, 2009, Balsillie made an offer of $212.5 million to purchase the Phoenix Coyotes following the team's filing for bankruptcy protection in Arizona. In a press release from Toronto, Ontario,[13] the offer to purchase is conditional on relocation to Southern Ontario. At the request of the current owner of the Phoenix Coyotes, Balsillie agreed to post debtor-in-possession financing of $17.0 million U.S. dollars to allow the Phoenix Coyotes to operate in advance of a restructuring or a sale. A few hours later, the NHL removed Coyotes owner, Jerry Moyes, from all decision making regarding the future of the Phoenix Coyotes, as the NHL has had control over the team and all holdings since Moyes signed a proxy agreement. This is to be disputed in court on May 19, 2009 in Phoenix Bankruptcy Court.[14]

Balsillie's latest efforts also include the creation of a large public relations campaign, Make it Seven, purportedly to curry favor in the court of public opinion prior to the upcoming bankruptcy hearing for the Phoenix Coyotes Organization, as represented by the NHL.[15] The name of the campaign refers to increasing the current number of NHL franchises located in Canada to seven. Aspects of this PR strategy include the creation of a website that accumulates signatories in favor of moving the team to southern Ontario, Canada.[13]

On May 13, 2009, The Canadian Press reported on TSN.ca that Balsillie won the exclusive rights to Hamilton's Copps Coliseum until November after a unanimous vote by Hamilton city council. On May 29, 2009, Balsillie unveiled his plans to renovate the Coliseum into a state-of-the-art facility in anticipation of a NHL franchise coming to Hamilton.[16]

On May 16, 2009, Balsillie welcomed Labatt Breweries and Home Hardware into the fold as his first two "anchor corporate partners."[17]

Rulings on Coyotes[edit | edit source]

On June 15, 2009, Judge Redfield T. Baum rejected Balsillie’s bid to purchase the Coyotes.[18][19][20] Judge Baum’s ruling included that he did not have the power to force the team to move and that Balsillie’s June 29 deadline did not give the court enough time to resolve all the issues in the case.[18][19][20]

On August 5, 2009, Judge Baum ruled that Balsillie could take part in the auction for the team on September 10.[21]

On September 30, 2009, Balsillie's bid was again rejected by Judge Baum, who also rejected the NHL's bid. Balsille's bid was rejected "with prejudice," so he will be unable to make another bid for the Coyotes. Balsillie stated he will not appeal the decision.[22]

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. Jim Kelley. The Art of Doublespeak. Sportsnet.ca. 9 December 2008.
  2. Fink, James. NY senators oppose NHL team in Hamilton. Business First of Buffalo. 18 May 2009. Retrieved 22 May 2009.
  3. [1]
  4. [2]
  5. [3]
  6. [4]
  7. [5]
  8. NHL Policies Examined, www.canada.com/nationalpost, June 6, 2007
  9. "Balsillie has deal for Hamilton arena", CBC.ca, May 31, 2007. 
  10. [6]
  11. Leipold says Balsillie deal not dead yet | Finance and Ventures | NashvillePost.com: Nashville Business News + Nashville Political News
  12. "Balsillie's bid to buy the Predators nixed: report", CBC.ca, June 28, 2007. 
  13. 13.0 13.1 Make It Seven
  14. Spurrier, Guy. "Balsillie bids to buy bankrupt Phoenix Coyotes", National Post, May 5, 2009. Retrieved on May 6, 2009. 
  15. On air speculation of legal advisors, and sports broadcasters, the Fan 590, CJCL
  16. "Jim Balsillie Unveils Dramatic Revitalization for Copps Coliseum", Social Media Release by CNW, May 29, 2009. 
  17. The Canadian Press. "Balsillie lands big corporate sponsor to help bid for Coyotes", TSN.ca, May 15, 2009. 
  18. 18.0 18.1 "Judge rejects Balsillie's bid to buy Coyotes", CBC.ca, June 16, 2009. Retrieved on June 16, 2009. 
  19. 19.0 19.1 McGran, Kevin. "Judge shuts Balsillie out", Toronto Star, June 16, 2009. Retrieved on June 16, 2009. 
  20. 20.0 20.1 The Canadian Press. "Bettman not surprised that Balsillie intends to forge on", TSN.ca, June 17, 2009. Retrieved on June 23, 2009. 
  21. "Judge rules Balsillie can take part in Coyotes auction" - 570 News
  22. "Balsillie ends pursuit of Coyotes" - CBC.ca

External links[edit | edit source]

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