Billy Joel, who has banners hanging in Madison Square Garden for sold-out shows with 12, wrote a song in 1986 called "A Matter of Trust". In it, he explains why a relationship is nothing more than a lie when it comes to matters of trust. After the meeting conducted by the NHL's Board of Governors in regards to the new applications for ownership of the Phoenix Coyotes, it appears that the only issue separating Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie from owning the Phoenix Coyotes is trust. It has nothing to do with his wealth, his application, his team, or his dream of placing a team in Hamilton. Instead, from everything that Gary Bettman said today, it appears that the NHL Board of Governors made is clear that they don't trust Jim Balsillie, and that his application, while sound financially, doesn't meet the standards of character than the NHL is searching for in an owner.
The NHL Board of Governors met today in a special meeting to consider the three applications in front of the NHL for the Coyotes' ownership. The applications were from Mr. Balsillie, Mr. Jerry Reinsdorf of Chicago, and a group led by Mr. Anthony Leblanc of Thunder Bay, Ontario. The goal was to find an application that satisfied the criteria outlined by the NHL's constitution and bylaws and by the bankruptcy findings as set out by Judge Redfield T. Baum.
The findings of the NHL Board of Governors were as follows:
- The application submitted by Jerry Reinsdorf for $148 million, which included keeping the franchise in Phoenix, Arizona, was unanimously approved by the NHL Board of Governors.
- The application by Jim Balsillie for $212.5 million, which included a proposal for moving the franchise to Hamilton, Ontario, was unanimously rejected by the NHL Board of Governors.
- The application by Anthony Leblanc, which included a proposal for having the Coyotes play in various cities across North America, was deemed "incomplete" by the NHL, but Mr. Leblanc's group was encouraged to continue on the application process.
"The criteria set forth in the constitution and bylaws relates to financial wherewithal, character, integrity and the view whether or not the other owners would deem you a good partner," Bettman told a group of reporters.
Clearly, Jim Balsillie's "financial wherewithal" is not in question as he is the CEO of Research-In-Motion which owns the Blackberry and its related technologies. With the Blackberry earning more and more of the cellular and smartphone markets, Balsillie's financial backing is rock solid.
However, the last three criteria points raise a major concern if you're an owner. Character, integrity, and good partner are major issues when you're working in a partnership.
In circumventing the rules twice to try to gain ownership in the NHL, Balsillie's character and integrity should be called into question. Why does he feel the need to do things differently than the other 29 owners who followed the rules? If you're going to enter into a business partnership with him, would you feel comfortable if he feels he's above the rules?
PSE spokesman Bill Walker offered a rebuttal statement to the NHL's findings: "We do not think that Jim Balsillie's qualification to be an NHL owner is an issue in this case given his 2006 approval as an NHL owner".
The problem is that Balsillie didn't try to skirt very clear rules about becoming an NHL owner in 2006. The problem is that Balsillie didn't enter into an agreement with an NHL owner to pull the rug out from under the Board of Governors' feet in 2006. The problem is that Jim Balsillie's business tactics seem to have changed since 2006. His qualification to be an owner in terms of the financial side have not changed - he's still got the cash to be an owner. The problem is that the way he has approached the opportunity gets sleazier each time.
As a businessman, you would expect Jim Balsillie to understand business ethics when it comes to a large-scale, global company like the NHL. You would hope that he would understand that there is a process in the transfer of ownership in a business like the NHL, and expect that he would respect that process. It's not like trading hockey cards; rather, there is a long process of due diligence that needs to be conducted on both sides of the ledger.
It's time for PSE Sports and Jim Balsillie to stop crying over spilled milk as in the picture above. Just as in hockey, you win some and you lose some. When you lose, you go back to the drawing board and come up with a new plan to find a way to win. Sometimes, however, you have to do things a certain way. And you have to trust your teammates - in this case, the other 29 owners.
But if they don't trust you, why should they want you on their team?
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!