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GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — The Arizona Coyotes' ownership saga took a new, unexpected turn Thursday.
The current owners claim it's a positive step.
Addressing a New York Post report that IceArizona was in the process of selling a majority stake of the team to a Philadelphia hedge fund manager, the Coyotes issued a statement saying no deal was done and that none of its members are giving up ownership.
"In response to media reports today, the Arizona Coyotes can confirm that IceArizona has been in discussions with an unsolicited potential investor who is interested in joining the partnership," the statement said. "This should be viewed as an incredibly positive development and is due to the successful first year of IceArizona's ownership. This is all about the long-term stability and viability of the franchise in Arizona. By no means are any members of the current IceArizona group departing the ownership. While there has been no confirmation of any transaction, this is something that the current ownership group is exploring."
The Post reported that IceArizona was in the process of selling a 51-percent stake in the team to Andrew Barroway, the Philadelphia hedge fund manager who previously attempted to buy the New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers.
Though IceArizona downplayed the negotiations, it has to make Coyotes fans nervous.
The team, which arrived in the desert in 1996 after relocating from Winnipeg, Manitoba, was thrown into turmoil when owner Jerry Moyes took the team into bankruptcy in 2009.
The team stayed in an ownerless suspension over the next four seasons, somehow winning on the ice — three straight playoff appearances — despite the financial constraints of being operated by the NHL and the emotional toll of seeing one potential owner after another fall through in a bid to buy the team.
The Coyotes seemed to find stability last year, when Renaissance Sports and Entertainment, managing partner of IceArizona, worked out a lease agreement with the City of Glendale for what was then Jobing.com Arena and bought the team from the NHL.
Though the Coyotes failed to make the playoffs, the ownership group headed by Anthony LeBlanc and George Gosbee seemed to be pleased with the progress of the team.
Before this season, the team changed its name from Phoenix Coyotes to Arizona Coyotes to make a stronger connection to the all of the state's fans.
The team also signed a nine-year partnership with Gila River Casinos that includes the first naming-rights deal by a federally recognized tribe — the Gila River Indian Community — with a venue for one of the four major professional sports leagues.
Where the latest twist in the saga heads remains to be seen.
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