The NHL Board of Governors has approved the sale of a majority stake in the Arizona Coyotes to Alex Meruelo, marking a major step for his potential purchase.
Meruelo, a billionaire entrepreneur who founded the Meruelo Group, is set to purchase the majority stake in the Coyotes from Andrew Barroway. He had been reported recently as being close to an agreement, and his prospective majority ownership share of the franchise took a big step forward with Wednesday’s unanimous approval from the NHL Board of Governors.
Technically, the sale is not expected to be finalized until next month, but Wednesday’s action by the Board of Governors was touted as a “major milestone” for the Coyotes in a statement by team president and CEO Ahron Cohen. One of the major tasks for Meruelo could involve a new arena as part of a strategy to stabilize the Coyotes’ future in Arizona, as doubts continue to be raised that Glendale’s Gila River Arena will be a viable home for the organization over the long run. More from the Arizona Republic:
“The Board of Governors’ unanimous approval today represents a major milestone for the Coyotes organization, our great fans and, of course, for Mr. Alex Meruelo,” Cohen said in the statement. “As we move forward, our team will do everything we can to continue building the positive momentum and progress we have achieved on and off the ice.
“We are determined to make this summer a success as we head into the 2019-20 season. We will keep Our Pack updated on further milestones in this process.”
Assuming the deal is finalized, it is believed that Meruelo will be the first Latino majority owner in the NHL. Meruelo could unlock opportunities in a metro Phoenix market that has a Hispanic population of more than 42%, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman told reporters in Las Vegas that Meruelo is “committed” to finding a new arena in Arizona, adding that Gila River Arena in Glendale “is not viable long-term.”
At points in the past, the Coyotes expressed a desire to leave Gila River Arena in favor of a new facility in downtown Phoenix or the East Valley, citing the belief that such a move would improve the organization’s financial outlook. Over the past few years, however, there has been little progress regarding an arena search.
Efforts from the recent past include a proposal from late 2016 that called for a new arena in Tempe that would be constructed as part of a partnership with Arizona State University and its hockey program. ASU ultimately pulled the plug on that plan in early 2017 and is now moving forward with the construction of its own multi-sport venue that will accommodate hockey. Additionally, state legislation to finance a new arena for the Coyotes failed to gain support among Arizona lawmakers in 2017.