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Joyce Clark Unfiltered

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It has been 17 years and 195 days since the city’s pledge to build the West Branch Library.

Recently ‘thevintageguy,’ one of the regular commenters to my blog posts, offered an interesting idea. He calculated that if every hockey ticket for every game had a surcharge of $24 it would generate $15M annually in revenue. If that surcharge were applied IceArizona would not need the City of Glendale to pay $15M a year for a management fee.

I decided to explore that idea but first, some history. The city owned arena opened in December of 2003. Let me remind you there was no arena management fee that the city had to pay. Steve Ellman led a group of investors who bought the Coyotes. Ellman may be many things to many people but he took immense pride in the arena, the Coyotes and the events he booked. Back then concerts were far more frequent. Bette Midler, Britney Spears, Elton John and U2, to name just a few performers, played at the arena in its early years. During the years of his ownership of the team the Arizona Sting (now defunct) also played all of its games at the arena. While the Arizona Sting was probably not a money maker during the years of its existence from 2003-07, each year it successfully increased its fan base. It certainly was not a deterrent to Jerry Moyes’ acquisition of Ellman’s interests.

Ellman realized how important it was to his bottom line to keep the arena busy all year long. Ellman’s downfall was his inability to develop a substantial amount of commercial and retail surrounding the arena quickly enough. To focus on that aspect of his business he sold his interest in the hockey team to Jerry Moyes. Then the national recession hit and he was unable to hold on to his interests within Westgate.

Under Moyes there was no arena management fee that the city had to pay. Moyes seemed not to be as committed to the health of the team and its bottom line as Ellman had been. Unfortunately Moyes ran the team’s finances into the ground. Apparently he diverted team revenue to his other businesses and subsidiaries. By 2009, Moyes asked the city to begin payment of a management fee of $12M a year. The city refused. Moyes declared team bankruptcy all the while working a secret deal with Jim Balsillie to buy the team out of bankruptcy. The court stopped that scheme and the NHL assumed control of the team. The NHL demanded an annual management fee of $25M knowing that the city needed to buy time until a new team owner was secured. It was precedent setting. From that point forward any potential owner of the team had a green light to require that the city pay a management fee.

In 2013, IceArizona bought the team with the NHL’s blessing and so the management fee scheme was retained with the city paying $15M annually. The IA management agreement has a revenue sharing component but the revenues generated annually and paid to the city have been approximately $8M short every year in covering the annual $15M payment.

Recently the city council voted to cancel the contract with IceArizona (IA) alleging a conflict of interest by two former city employees. IA immediately went to court and obtained a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO). The judge required the city to make its quarterly payment of $3.75M on July 1, 2015 to pay for services already rendered and the city has done so. The court also required IA to post a bond of $1M and IA has done so. On July 29, 2015 both parties will be back in court and the judge will make a determination if the TRO should become permanent pending the outcome of the suit regarding the contract cancellation.

On Monday, July 13, 2015, the Glendale city council met in executive session. It is my strong belief that the subject of that meeting was the litigation between IA and the city. I suspect IA made an offer amending the existing contract and their offer was rejected. It appears as if the city council is convinced that its allegations are solid and provable in a court of law. Just think about it. If there had been a desire on the part of council to accept an offer from IA there would have been a press release issued after executive session. That has not occurred.

Back to the ‘vintageguy’s’ idea. Basic research reveals the following annual attendance figures for the Coyotes, courtesy of hockeyDB.com at http://www.hockeydb.com/nhl-attendance/att_graph.php?tmi=7450 .

“Phoenix Coyotes Yearly Attendance Graph. This is a graph of the home attendance of the Phoenix Coyotes, a hockey team playing in the National Hockey League from 1996 to 2015. Attendance is based on numbers from a team or league, either released as an official yearly per-game average figure, or compiled into an average from individual boxscore attendance. In some cases when boxscore attendance is unavailable for a small number of games, the attendance is computed omitting the missing games and annotated as approximate. Clicking on a season’s bar will bring you to a graph of all teams in the league.”

The average attendance figure for the Coyotes for the last 5 years is 13,133. Multiply that figure by 41 games a year and the average total attendance for a season of 41 games is 538,453. If you divide $15M (annual city payment of management fee) by 538,453 each ticket for each and every game would require an additional $27.85. If a hockey fan were to buy a ticket for each of the 41 games per year the additional annual amount he/she would pay would be $1,141.85. What do all of these numbers mean? If hockey fans paid more for every ticket IceArizona would not need the $15M a year from the city. Now that sounds like a plan.

Let’s look at it another way. Each year even with IA’s revenue sharing the city is in deficit for the $15M annual payment by about $8M a year. If revenue sharing were to remain and the same ticket increase scheme were used to cover the $8M a year deficit, each ticket would need to be increased by $14.85 which comes to a total increase for a fan attending all 41 games of $608.85 a year.

I believe my figures are correct but even if they are off a bit don’t get bogged down in the numbers. Instead consider the concept. If fans were charged more per ticket per game with or without IA revenue sharing there would be no need for the city to pay an annual management fee of $15M. That would surely solve the city’s annual Coyotes related deficit. Whether it is $27.85 or $14.85 per ticket per game the sixty four dollar question is are Coyotes fans willing to pay either extra amount to keep the team in Glendale? Is it possible for them to redirect their negative anger to a more positive action – that of paying more to keep their team?

© Joyce Clark, 2015

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It has been 17 years and 158 days since the city’s pledge to build the West Branch Library.

At 6 PM on Wednesday, June 10, 2015 the Glendale city council will meet to consider and vote upon an action to cancel the current Lease Management Agreement with IceArizona. Here is the only item on the agenda:

“DISCUSSION AND POSSIBLE ACTION TO DIRECT THE CITY MANAGER AND CITY ATTORNEY TO CANCEL THE PROFESSIONAL MANAGEMENT SERVICES AND ARENA LEASE AGREEMENT BETWEEN THE CITY OF GLENDALE AND ICEARIZONA MANAGER CO., LLC AND ICEARIZONA HOCKEY CO., LLC, PURSUANT TO ARIZONA REVISED STATUTES § 38-511, AND TO PURSUE ANY AND ALL OTHER LEGAL ACTIONS AND REMEDIES NECESSARY TO EFFECTUATE CANCELLATION OR TERMINATION OF THE AGREEMENT.”

There are rumors flying furiously on Twitter, Facebook, etc. speculating on the reason for the possible cancellation. That’s all they are…rumors. I can affirm that the reason has nothing to do with the infamous audit or the brough ha ha over naming rights. I have agreed to not say anything further until after the council meeting.

Don’t expect Councilmember Sherwood to be at this meeting or call in. Apparently he will be in Salt Lake City tomorrow. How convenient especially if the deal he brokered blows up. His pals (Chavira and Aldama), or as all three call themselves, the “Tres Amigos” (I like Three Stooges better), will have to vote without their “jefe” to keep them in line. Oh oh…

Bring your seat cushions for tomorrow night’s meeting folks. Expect it to be a long one with every possible Coyote fan in attendance reiterating over and over again how stupid this council is. Has it occurred to anyone that they couldn’t be that stupid if they have discovered a way out of the current contract?

You will see the agenda item makes specific reference to Arizona Revised Statutes § 38-511. I suggest anyone that is interested in this issue take the time to read it.

© Joyce Clark, 2015

FAIR USE NOTICE

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright Law and who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use,’ you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

It has been 17 years and 150 days since the city’s pledge to build the West Branch Library.

The Arizona Republic of June 1, 2015 has a front page story by Peter Corbett entitled Glendale staffer quits over altered arena audit. Here is the link: http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/glendale/2015/06/01/glendale-staffer-resigns-arena-audit/28289641/ . Corbett reports that Assistant City Auditor Andrea McDermott-Fields resigned as a result of a conflict with City Auditor Candace MacLeod over the Coyotes audit.

A little history is in order. Two years ago the city audited its Risk Management Trust Fund. The audit was performed by MacLeod. MacLeod was supported by and worked very closely with former City Attorney (now attorney for IceArizona) Craig Tindall. MacLeod was part of the Frisoni-Burdick group that lobbied me (and I assume, other councilmembers) to appoint Craig Tindall as Interim City Manager rather than Horatio Skeete. This is “inside baseball” stuff and wouldn’t be commonly known.

I, and I assume the other councilmembers, were not aware of the fact that MacLeod’s husband did contract work in broadcasting for the Coyotes until 2011. Just as in the case of former Assistant City Manager Julie Frisoni and her husband’s work for Insight Technology (a company that recently received a contract renewal from the city) there is a perception of conflict of interest. Just as Frisoni should have signed a disclosure statement it would have been prudent for MacLeod to divulge her possible conflict in reviewing the Coyotes recently submitted audit. The perception, rightly or wrongly, is that MacLeod might have had a reason to insure that IceArizona, owner of the Coyotes, didn’t look too bad.

What makes this situation even more questionable is that IceArizona stalled on releasing its audit. It should have been submitted to the city no later than September (60 days after the end of the Fiscal Year which ends June 30th). The city didn’t receive it until recently. In anticipation of receiving the IceArizona audit in a timely fashion the city hired Tony Tavares (once part of a group interested in buying the Coyotes) to audit the IceArizona submission. Presumably Tavares’ audit was completed and turned over to the city for confirmation. That is where MacLeod enters the picture. MacLeod assigned the job to McDermott-Fields but would have reviewed and approved the final work product.

According to Corbett McDermott-Fields in her April 21 letter of resignation said, “The basis of my resignation is that you have changed my findings in a way that is not acceptable to me or in accordance with the information that I have gathered.” As a result of McDermott’s resignation and the reason for it Jim Brown, the city’s human resources director did an inquiry regarding McDermott-Fields’ resignation but did not include a review of any of MacLeod’s changes to McDermott-Fields’ audit findings. Corbett related that “MacLeod told Brown that some of McDermott-Fields’ ‘documentation was inaccurate, incomplete, unclear, in some cases inflammatory and at times based on (McDermott-Fields’) opinion, which had not been confirmed with the city attorney or others’.”

MacLeod’s statement to Brown raises so many red flags I’m not even sure where to begin. In the article McDermott-Fields stated, “She is certified as an accountant, internal auditor and fraud examiner, adding that she has more than 25 years of experience.” Add to that she appears to have no ties or relationships to anyone associated with IceArizona and the Coyotes. She probably has more experience than MacLeod. She appears to be a neutral party and called it as she saw it.

It seems as if MacLeod trashed McDermott-Fields’ work because she didn’t like the result. I am also intrigued by McDermott-Fields’ comment, “MacLeod seemed hostile to her when they met to discuss the audit findings and (MacLeod) ‘accused me of throwing her under the bus’.” That also raises red flags. What was MacLeod upset about in McDermott-Fields’ audit findings? Who is MacLeod trying to protect? The city, IceArizona or both? No, something stinks about the whole situation.  It appears to be another CYA move by Brown and Tom Duensing in an effort to avoid city embarrassment because an employee called the audit as she saw it and it might have shown that the city was being short changed by IceArizona in the revenues it received.

The shame of it all is that we will never know the results of the city’s audit. Why? Because former City Manager Brenda Fischer, in an apparent stunning lack of competence, signed a separate agreement with Anthony LeBlanc of the Coyotes, agreeing to keep the audit confidential. She didn’t have to do that. The management agreement between the city and IceArizona stipulated that the city has the right to audit and there was no requirement of confidentiality. If the agreement had been followed without the separate Fischer-LeBlanc amendment the audit would be publicly available. Then we would know who was right in her findings…MacLeod or McDermott-Fields. Somehow or another I’m betting McDermott-Fields was right on the money.

© Joyce Clark, 2015

FAIR USE NOTICE

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright Law and who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use,’ you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

It has been 17 years and 107 days since the city’s pledge to build the West Branch Library.

USA Today photo

Andrew Barroway, Anthony LeBlanc Courtesy USA Today

On December 31, 2014 we were greeted with an announcement released by Coyotes Co-Owner, President and CEO Anthony LeBlanc, “Today is an exciting day for the Arizona Coyotes and our great fans. The addition of Andrew Barroway to our ownership group further solidifies the Coyotes long-term future in the Valley. Our entire ownership group is excited about this opportunity to work with Andrew in taking this franchise to the next level. It’s a great day for hockey in Arizona!” Here is the link: http://heatwaved.com/2014/12/31/andrew-barroway-approved-buy-arizona-coyotes/ .

We were told that Andrew Barroway’s purchase made him majority owner of the team holding 51%. The deal was praised as a means of creating financial stability for the team and some of the money would be used to raise payroll. Barroway said, “he and the nine minority owners were committed to infusing $30 million back into the team, with up to $9 million going directly to upgrading the on-ice product through trades and free agency.” As majority owner, Barroway would be the team governor, current governor George Gosbee would be alternate governor, and Anthony LeBlanc would remain as chief executive officer.

Two days later, on January 2, 2015 Craig Morgan of Fox Sports News interviewed Barroway. Here is the link: http://www.foxsports.com/arizona/story/q-a-with-coyotes-majority-owner-andrew-barroway-010215 . Morgan asked Barroway how active he would be as the new owner. Barroway indicated that he planned to be an active owner and would take part in all major decisions regarding the team. Morgan also asked if there would be any major changes and Barroway responded that he didn’t expect any.

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Where’s Waldo?

That was 4 months ago. So where’s Waldo? Er, Andrew Barroway? Sources inside Glendale City Hall indicate that Barroway, as the  majority owner of the team, has not signed the lease management contract. At the very least, that should have occurred after the Board of Governors approved the sale to Barroway on December 31, 2014. Does Barroway’s absence from the team scene and Gila River Arena plus a lease management contract without Barroway’s signature signal trouble with the deal? At the last game of the season the Coyotes distributed their annual book replete with statistics, photos and bios of everyone (except God) including the owners minus any mention or photo of Andrew Barroway. It makes you scratch your head and ask what’s going on.

thDYDNS84PThere’s another Where’s Waldo moment…the failure of the Coyotes to submit a certified financial team audit to the City of Glendale as stipulated in the lease management agreement. It was due September 30, 2014…7 months ago. In anticipation of receiving the audit the city hired Tony Tavares in December of 2014 to perform the city’s audit.

Peter Corbett of the Arizona Republic in an April 17, 2015 article offered some very interesting comments from principals involved. Here is the link: http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/glendale/2015/04/17/glendale-arizona-coyotes-first-season-audit-drags/25922095/ . He reported that:

  • “Coyotes officials said the reports were late because it was the organization’s first year of operations under the new deal and more complications surfaced when a new majority owner acquired the team at the end of last year.”
  • “The financial-reporting delay has created tensions with Glendale officials who are frustrated that the team has not closed the books on its first season even as the second season wrapped up April 11 on the ice at Gila River Arena.”
  • “Ian Hugh, Glendale vice mayor, said the Coyotes must be held accountable for the money the team is taking from taxpayers. ‘I expect both sides to live up to our agreement,’ he said. ‘Our auditor is still trying to get information from the Coyotes’.”
  • “Jeff Shumway, Coyotes CEO from 2006-09, said that during his tenure the team typically completed its audits by November. The audit reports were public documents that were available to anyone who made a records request to Glendale, he said.”
  • “The current Coyotes arena-management agreement includes language that requires the city to protect the team’s proprietary information.”

What’s so “proprietary” about an audited financial statement of profit and loss submitted to the City of Glendale that shouldn’t be a public record? After all, Glendale’s taxpayers are paying $15 million dollars a year. You would think we would be entitled.

The team’s financial audit wasn’t “proprietary” when Steve Ellman and/or Jerry Moyes owned the team. Did LeBlanc fudge in his public statements about the team’s losses? Who knows? Apparently we, the public, the taxpayers of Glendale and the fans supporting the team with ticket sales, will never know the truth. Former President Ronald Reagan said, “Trust but verify.” LeBlanc and company want all of us to trust but at the same time they don’t seem to want us to verify.

Questions remain unanswered…Where is Waldo? Where is Andrew Barroway and where is the certified team financial audit? There are answers but we are not getting them.

Post Script: Today is the NHL Draft Lottery. Coyotes placed third in lottery line up. Anthony LeBlanc tweeting a good face on the situation…but Where’s Waldo?

© Joyce Clark, 2015

FAIR USE NOTICE

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright Law and who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use,’ you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

It has been 17 years and 95 days since the city’s pledge to build the West Branch Library.

For 4 years, from the time Jerry Moyes declared the team bankrupt in 2009 until the end of 2012, as a councilmember I was part of the high drama surrounding the Arizona Coyotes and the arena, a city owned facility. Suitors to buy the team came and went with regularity. The city paid the NHL $25 million a year to manage the arena while everyone desperately hunted for a new owner. In 2013 a new city council was seated and promptly approved the current management agreement of $15 million dollars paid annually to IceArizona, the new owners of the team. If truth be told that $15 million goes directly to Fortress Lending and the NHL as interest payments on the IceArizona’s purchase debt owed by LeBlanc, Gosbee, and et.al. If you remember the cash raised for the team purchase was approximately $45 million. The rest of the purchase price of $170 million was strictly debt. Today Andrew Barroway is the majority owner (51%) of the team.

A recent article on March 30, 2015, by Mike Sunnucks of the Phoenix Business Journal entitled Could the Phoenix Suns, city build a new arena at Phoenix Convention Center site? It is intriguing to say the least. Sunnucks reports on speculation about where the Phoenix Suns will be playing its games in the future, “ ‘US Airways Center is owned by the city of Phoenix and the Suns lease doesn’t expire until 2029’, according to city spokeswoman Deb Ostreicher. The Suns could look to the city for renovations of the downtown arena or could look for a new home.” Sunnucks goes on to say, “One scenario being talked about — at least in real estate and downtown Phoenix circles — is a new arena being built where the current South Building of the Phoenix Convention Center is on Jefferson and Third streets. That is the oldest convention center building and is a block away from the Suns’ current arena.”

Granted all of this is extremely speculative but there is the possibility of the Phoenix owned US Airways Center becoming vacant if Phoenix and the Suns decide to build a new arena at the site of the south building of the convention center. Take it a step further and it is not outside the realm of possibility that Phoenix would attempt to lure the Arizona Coyotes to a newly renovated and vacant US Airways Center with better sight lines for hockey patrons.

Think about it. Since purchasing the team two years ago IceArizona has consistently lost money due to many factors. One of those factors has always been fan complaints about trekking out to Glendale for the games. Many in the East Valley as well as from other locations such as Tucson simply choose not to make the trip. A more centrally located arena in downtown Phoenix has a certain appeal for many.

One wonders if it appeals to Barroway. Today, 2015, the Glendale arena is 12 years old, having opened in December of 2003. In another 3 years, by 2018, the arena will be 15 years old and the Coyotes will have the available option of moving due to the opt out clause any time thereafter. One of Barroway’s imperatives is to keep the team viable over the next 3 years until some major decisions are made.

In 8 years, by 2023, the arena will be 20 years old and in need of major renovation and upgrades. In the meantime, if Barroway and the City of Phoenix worked out a deal regarding US Airways it could solve one persistent fan complaint by relocating to a more convenient and centralized location. It would certainly fulfill the owners’ mantra of “here to stay”…just not in Glendale.

© Joyce Clark, 2015

FAIR USE NOTICE

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright Law and who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use,’ you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

On Friday, March 13, 2015 we learned that the Coyotes had finally finished their audit and submitted it to the City of Glendale. What is troublesome is the fact that the results were submitted to Glendale five months late. The first question is, why? IceArizona’s rationale is sure to be that the Barroway purchase was the cause of the delay. But his purchase was in December and it is now March. Audits do take time but not this much time.

Another troublesome aspect is IceArizona’s inability to abide by the arena management agreement stipulation 8.16.1 (c) Annual Financial Reports, “Not later than 90 days after the end of each Fiscal Year (June 30), provided, that if all necessary information from the NHL related to the following items (a), (b) and (c) shall not have been received by the date which is 30 days after the end of each Fiscal Year, then interim reports shall be provided within the normal time frame and final reports shall be provided within 60 days after the receipt of all necessary information from the NHL related thereto): (a) a balance sheet relating to Arena Facility operations as to the end of such Fiscal Year, (b) a statement of profit or less for Arena Facility operations during such Fiscal Year, and (c) a statement of charge of financial condition for Arena Facility operations during such Fiscal Year, each prepared in accordance with GAAP as consistently applied (if there are multiple interpretations of the application of GAAP, GAAP as traditionally interpreted by the Arena Manager and the Team Owner shall apply) (collectively, the “Annual Financial Reports”), and accompanied by a report containing an opinion of the Arena Manager’s accountants, stating that such Annual Financial Reports relate, that such Annual Financial Reports have been prepared in accordance with GAAP as consistently applied and that the examination by the Arena Manager’s accountants in connection with such financial reports was made in accordance with GAAP.” The agreement then states in 8.17.1. Audits, “The City shall have the right to conduct an independent audit of the management and operation of the arena (or any part thereof) and the Account Records (or any part thereof) and the Team Owner Records (or any part thereof) by the City Staff or by an independent certified public accounting firm selected by the City.”

The City should have received an Interim Audit about October 1, 2014. Instead it received the Final Audit on March 13, 2015, five months late. On November 4, 2014 in anticipation of receiving the expected Audit, the City hired Proeminent Sports, LLC, and a Nevada limited liability company, to audit the information IceArizona was supposed to provide in a timely fashion and to present its findings by December 15, 2014.

Note that the City’s expectation was that the audit would take about Coyotes Audit contract_Page_26 weeks, not months and months and months. Tony Tavares, former president of the Anaheim Mighty Ducks and Los Angeles Angels and Managing Member of Proeminent Sports, is the lead in conducting the audit. Tavares just happened to have been involved with Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf in 2011 when Reinsdorf was trying to purchase the Coyotes from the NHL. Is there any conflict of interest?

On March 13, 2015 the media began sharing leaked results of the audit. Since the city has not publicly posted the audit results the leaking appeared to have been on the IceArizona side. What has been reported by some media traditionally sympathetic to the Coyotes is a total loss figure of $34,831,000.  It breaks out into operating losses of $16,458,000 and one time charges of $18,373,000. Their argument is that one should only look at the operating losses of nearly $16.5 million dollars and should not consider the nearly $18.4 million dollars in additional losses because they are one time charges and will not recur. They are correct in stating those specific charges will not recur but it is reasonable to assume that there will be other, onetime charges each and every year. While they will not be the specific ones attributed to this Fiscal Year, there are bound to be other onetime charges annually.

I attended the Blackhawks game last week and couldn’t help but notice that the majority of attendees were Hawks fans. The robust chants for the Hawks in our house were downright embarrassing. It appeared as if nearly every Coyotes ticket holder had sold their seats to Hawks fans. With a team that is not performing well it is not surprising to see the fan base shrink. Fans are fickle. Everyone loves a winner…a losing team? Not so much.  It may well be that operations and team revenue earnings will reflect this downward trend this Fiscal Year.

That brings us to the troublesome “out” clause that IceArizona may exercise after 5 years of losses totaling $50 million dollars or more. There has been considerable past discussion that lingers to this day over that particular clause. Many fans asked why the stipulation was necessary if the owners’ intent is to keep the team in Arizona. Others, from the Glendale resident side, called for the very same stipulation for the city. Quietly, oh so quietly, the IceArizona owners retained the “out” clause and the city never received such a stipulation in its favor. Is it any wonder that speculation about the owners’ long term intent has surfaced again upon learning that first year losses are $38.4 million dollars? After all, that figure is more than half of the $50 million dollars required in demonstrated loss before the owners can exercise the “out” clause.  

In a March 13, 2015 Craig Morgan story for FoxSports Arizona CEO Anthony LeBlanc stated, Naysayers will try and bring up the out clause at every opportunity… It leads to a simple question: If the franchise is successful financially, why would you even consider exercising it? The out clause was a protection mechanism.” The better question is…if the franchise is successful financially, why are you, Mr. LeBlanc et.al, keeping it? There would be no speculation every time Las Vegas or Seattle is mentioned if there was no “out” clause.

© Joyce Clark, 2015

FAIR USE NOTICE

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright Law and who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use,’ you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Ever since the news of Andrew Barroway’s purchase of a 51% interest in the Coyotes (expected to be ratified by the NHL’s Board of Governors) there have been questions about the original management agreement between IceArizona and the City of Glendale.

One of the questions that surfaced was would there be an opportunity to renegotiate the agreement. In reading the contract there does not appear such an opportunity.  Technically Barroway is becoming the majority owner of the team and for now the arena manager remains the same.

The arena manager is responsible for the operation of the arena and for leasing space to the team. The issue is addressed in Section 5. Demise of Arena and Use Rights. In 5.1, Demise of the Arena it states, “The City hereby demises and lets to the Arena Manager, and the Arena Manager hereby takes and leases from the City, effective on the Closing Date, for the Term and upon the provisions (i) The Arena Facility…” In Section 5.2, Grant Use of Rights, it says, “In addition to the rights granted by the City to the Arena Manager in the other provisions of this Agreement, the City hereby grants to the Arena Manager, and approves the right of the Arena Manager to grant to the Team Owner, during the Term, the exclusive right and obligation to use and occupy the Hockey Event Spaces…”

In Section 6.2., Sublease of Exclusive Team Spaces, it says, “The Team Manager hereby subleases the Exclusive Team Spaces to the Team Owner…”  The team is a subtenant of the arena. We know that Barroway is securing a 51% interest in the team but we do not know if he is also acquiring a majority interest in the arena management company.

Even if Barroway became a majority owner of the arena management company in Section 4.2.3, Arena Sub-Manager, “The Arena Manager may, from time to time, delegate all or a portion of its duties and responsibilities to an Arena Sub-Manager…” There is no provision that I can find whereby a change in team ownership requires a renegotiation of the lease since: (1) the lease is with the arena management company and (2) the arena management company can sub-lease to an arena sub-manager without city approval as long as all duties and responsibilities continue to be met satisfactorily.

The other question that has been raised is the city’s ability to audit. A little background is in order. Under the team ownership of Ellman and Moyes the city received financial reports but had to accept them without any corroboration. This eventually became problematical for the city. City Council wanted a mechanism whereby it could verify what the arena manager was reporting in terms of revenues and costs associated with the arena’s management and operation. Hence Section 8.16, Financial Reports and Section 8.17, Audits were incorporated into the agreement. Financial reports must be submitted to the city monthly, quarterly and annually. To ensure the veracity of the reports submitted, in Section 8.17.1, “The City shall have the right to conduct an independent audit of the management and operation of the Arena (or any part thereof) and the Account Records (or any part thereof) and the Team Owner Records (or any part thereof) by City Staff or by an independent certified public accounting firm selected by the City.” This section clearly grants the city the right to audit not just arena manager financial records but financial records of the team as well.

Keep in mind that this agreement was devised by attorneys and as a result, their interpretations of the terms can vary. That’s how they earn their fees…by arguing exactly what a term or provision of a contract actually means. They could argue how many gnats are on the head of a pin.  

As a result you can be sure that every sentence within the agreement can be disputed and argued by attorneys. On the face of it, it appears the city has no legal right to renegotiate the management agreement with IceArizona. IceArizona would have to agree to do so voluntarily and that’s not going to happen. However, the city does have a legal right to audit manager and team financial records and to thereby confirm the revenues and expenses that are reported to it.

© Joyce Clark, 2014

FAIR USE NOTICE

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright Law and who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use,’ you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Today, October 8, 2014 is a grey, overcast day in the Phoenix metro area…a rarity to be sure. Anywhere else it would portend a day of steady rain but Phoenix is a desert and because it looks like rain, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will happen. It’s a good day to let thoughts rumble around.

A blog reader recently sent me two news stories of interest. One is from the October 5, 2014 Seattle Times entitled Key Arena turns a bigger profit than it ever did with the Sonics by Ashley Scoby. Here is the link: http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2024708723_keyarena05xml.html. The other is a Deadspin article entitled The Coyotes were damned close to moving to Seattle by Barry Petchesky dated October 8, 2014. Here is the link: http://deadspin.com/the-coyotes-were-damned-close-to-moving-to-seattle-1643791488 . Each article compliments the other.

In the Deadspin story three sources confirm that the Coyotes were a hair’s breadth from moving to Seattle. Ray Bartoszek and Anthony Lanza had formed a buyers’ group with plans to move the Coyotes to Seattle’s Key Arena the day following the Glendale City Council vote on the IceArizona arena management agreement if it had failed to gain approval. The new information in the story is confirmation that the NHL had blessed the scheme. Everyone knew how imminent the move could be….the NHL knew; the presumed buyers had moving trucks on standby; Glendale senior management knew; the Glendale City Council knew; and IceArizona knew. The only ones in the dark were Glendale residents.

Which leads to the second news story about Seattle’s Key Arena. Everyone presumed in 2009 without the Sonics as an anchor tenant the arena would die a pitiful death. How wrong. An average annual loss to Seattle with the Sonics was $1.5 million. In 2013, without the Sonics, the arena generated $1.2 million in profit. The loss of the team didn’t hurt for it opened up more desirable dates for performing artists to utilize the arena. Artists such as Kanye West, Rihanna, Maroon 5 and Bruno Mars performed at the Key in 2013.

I had always supported keeping a professional sports team at the Gila River Hockey Arena because it was my belief that the arena and Westgate could not survive without one. Seattle’s Key Arena disproves that belief. If the Coyotes arena management agreement had failed on that fateful July, 2013 day Glendale would have moved on, just as Seattle did. Glendale would have joined with an AEG-type partner and could have enjoyed the same kind of success that we see today at Seattle’s Key Arena.

P.S. Here’s a link to yet another Seattle Times news story about an almost move to Seattle: http://seattletimes.com/html/hockey/2024716050_seattlenhl07xml.html#.VDWTTHFMEBI.twitter

© Joyce Clark, 2014

FAIR USE NOTICE

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright Law and who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use,’ you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Sherwood signatureVery recently I received this email over the Glendale city hall transom. It was produced as a result of a Freedom of Information Request. It is an email sent by Councilmember Gary Sherwood to Councilmember Manny Martinez and Jeff Teetsel (IStar manager of Westgate). It was sent on June 29, 2013 approximately one week before a majority of the Glendale City Council voted to accept the $15 million a year management agreement with IceArizona.

The main figures in the Glendale cast of characters at that time were: Mayor Jerry Weiers, Vice Mayor Yvonne Knaack, Councilmembers Martinez, Hugh, Alvarez, Chavira and Sherwood. The Acting City Manager was Dick Bowers and the Acting City Attorney was Nick DiPiazza. Nick Woods represented IceArizona in contract negotiations for management of the city’s arena.

SherwoodtoMartinezJune292013_Page_1 Blog

Sherwood email to Martinez

 

 

 

 

The actual email is pictured to the left but the text reads as follows:                                                                                       To: Martinez, Manny; Jeff Teetsel                                                     From: Sherwood, Gary                                                                                                                                                    RE: Out Clause and Risk Topics

“Yvonne and I spend over an hour with Nick Woods last night and out of the three concerns from what I shared with Nick after our e-session yesterday (as of 7:45p, Nick has not seen the city’s revised draft which was promised right after we got of e-session nor had it been posted to our website – consequently both happened by 8:45p) two were okay with the city and had to deal with the errors the city made — #1, we don’t own the 5500 parking spots we’re proposing to charge for therefore it must be a license agreement and not a license agreement  (sic) #2) since the bonds that are held against the arena are tax exempt – only a governmental agency can hold those bonds so some different language has to be brought in – city agreed with that. The third item is problematic in that it is against the NHL for cities to hold out-clause and none of the other 29 cities have one. That would allow the city to just kick the team out, where would they play, what if in the middle of the season.

“I don’t have the time to get into all the details but I’ve known Nick Woods for a long time and know him to be a trusted friend and right now I can’t turn my back away from anyone in the city manager’s office or out (sic) acting city attorney.

“Manny, I’ve got a booked day with two Habitat for Humanity events, three radio interviews and two TV spots so contact Yvonne for details of our conversation. Sammy is already on board as he was with us last night.

“Thanks for hanging in there!

“Manny – please delete this email after you’ve read it.”

Thanks,

Gary D. Sherwood

There are several issues of grave concern with this email. The most serious is a possible violation of the State’s Open Meeting Law.  The following is taken from the AG’s office explanation of one section of the Open Meeting Law:

 “7.5.2 Circumvention of the Open Meeting Law.Discussions and deliberations between less than a majority of the members of a governing body, or other devices, when used to circumvent the purposes of the Open Meeting Law violate that law. See Ariz. Att’y Gen. Op. 75-8; Town of Palm Beach v. Gradison, 296 So. 2d 473 (Fla. 1974). Public officials may not circumvent public discussion by splintering the quorum and having separate or serial discussions with a majority of the public body members. Splintering the quorum can be done by meeting in person, by telephone, electronically, or through other means to discuss a topic that is or may be presented to the public body for a decision. Public officials should refrain from any activities that may undermine public confidence in the public decision making process established in the Open Meeting Law, including actions that may appear to remove discussions and decisions from public view.”

What the explanation above means is that there are to be no private discussions by a majority (4 councilmembers or more) of the governing body if the topic of the discussion is about a matter to be voted upon by the city council. The IceArizona contract was voted upon one month later. The law also prohibits an elected official (councilmember) from acting as a “go-between,” relaying a position on an issue to be voted upon from one councilmember to another.  Sherwood’s email shows him relaying information to Martinez he had discussed the previous night with Nick Woods, Knaack and Chavira. That action is known as “daisy-chaining.”

Sherwood, Knaack, Martinez and Chavira were the 4 affirmative votes for the IceArizona contract. All four could be considered equally culpable of a possible violation of the Open Meeting law by discussing/negotiating elements of the Coyotes contract amongst themselves, privately, when it was soon to come before them for a public vote… all the while excluding the remaining 3 councilmember: Weiers, Hugh and Alvarez.  

Another alarming admission by Sherwood in this email is that he shared Executive session material with Nick Woods. The city was negotiating with IceArizona. The ad hoc discussion between Sherwood, Knaack and Chavira and Woods may have harmed or weakened the city’s position. City contract negotiations are a direct managerial responsibility of the City Manager and City Attorney. Could this action be a violation of the city’s charter? We’ll explore this topic in the next blog.

Every councilmember knows of the prohibition about not sharing E session material. Doing so is a very serious violation of the Open Meeting Law. Sherwood says quite clearly in his email that is exactly what he did with Nick Woods and then attempts to minimize the violation by characterizing Woods as a friend. It makes no difference. E session material is not to be shared with anyone…even friends or family.

It seems that Sherwood was putting pressure on Acting City Manager Dick Bowers and Acting City Attorney Nick DiPiazza to get the IceArizona deal done…quickly. We know that Mr. Bowers publicly addressed the $15 million a year IceArizona (at that time IceArizona was called Renaissance) contract and voiced concerns about Glendale’s fiscal health if it were approved at that figure. In a June 23, 2013 Dick Bowers memo to city council he said, “Contrary to what might appear in the papers I don’t see this as a ‘done deal’. Far from it.” He went on to say, “I cannot shake the concern for the level of risk expected to be borne by the city…I keep coming back to that same level of discomfort of Glendale having all of the risk in this deal.” Clearly Bowers had substantial concerns and it is not unreasonable to think that Sherwood was advising Bowers that he had the four votes needed to approve the deal.

From this email we can see who was talking to who privately about this issue. Sherwood seems to have taken the lead and all 4 councilmembers may have been negotiating collectively yet privately with IceArizona’s attorney. He acknowledges Knaack and Chavira as participants in his meeting with Nick Woods. He then sent his summary email to Martinez.

names                                                

Why did Sherwood ask Martinez to delete his email after reading? It appears to be tantamount to an admission that its contents should not have been memorialized.  There are so many questions and so few answers. Is it possible that Sherwood asked Martinez to delete his email because he realized he was “daisy-chaining?” Did Martinez delete this email as requested? Maybe…maybe  not, leading to its discovery now, over a year later.

Sherwood’s email and his comments within it warrant an investigation by the Attorney General’s Office to determine the validity of Open Meeting law violation allegations sure to arise as his email becomes more and more public. At this point, Sherwood’s email raises a lot of questions. I suspect that it may generate many citizen complaints to the AG’s Office. From my years of experience on council, it looks like a “smoking gun,” written by Sherwood himself that implicates him and 3 other councilmembers in possible Open Meeting Law violations.

So, for all those citizens who spoke in favor of or against the Coyotes deal the night council voted on the matter, it was in vain. It appears that 4 councilmembers, Sherwood, Knaack , Martinez and Chavira, had already made their minds up and shared their positions with one another at the end of June, 2013.

Update 1:00 PM. I am pleased to report that I have scooped the Arizona Republic. At 11:16 AM I published my blog on the Sherwood email. At 12:30 PM Peter Corbett, a reporter for the Arizona Republic released his story on the same Sherwood email. Here is the link:

http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/glendale/2014/07/21/glendale-mayor-council-members-violated-open-meeting-law/12956523/ . I knew Corbett had made the FOIA request for said email but I was perplexed because there was no Arizona Republic story. I was beginning to think someone had quashed it.

Mayor Jerry Weiers is considering filing a complaint with the AG’s office. If after reading this blog and Corbett’s article, you think Mayor Weiers should file a complaint, please send him an email at: jweiers@glendaleaz.com and let him know you support such an action.

© Joyce Clark, 2014

FAIR USE NOTICE

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright Law and who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use,’ you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

 

Caitlin McGlade, a reporter for the Arizona Republic, has a story on June 4, 2014 regarding a debt that IceArizona allegedly owes to the PR firm of Rose+Moser+Allyn (RMA). Here is the link: http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/glendale/2014/06/03/coyotes-owner-sued-deal/9942991/ . The PR firm has filed suit in Maricopa County Superior Court,”arguing that the team stiffed them on nearly a quarter of a million dollars.”

It seems that in August of 2013 after IceArizona had successfully secured the $15 million annual management arena contract from Glendale, it wanted to forestall any type of Coyotes referendum effort that would lead to an election on the issue. IceArizona hired RMA and promised to pay a base fee of $25,000, provide two front row tickets to eight hockey games per season and pay $250,000 over five years as a sponsorship fee to the Scottsdale Polo Championships (an event owned by the PR firm). It appears that the IceArizona check for the base fee of $25,000 bounced. It also appears that IceArizona is not disputing the facts of the deal but rather is claiming that there was a caveat that the polo sponsorship was supposed to bring value to IceArizona and it has not done so. That appears to be the basis of their reasoning for reneging on the $250,000 sponsorship fee.

What is interesting is that this deal was a “handshake” deal agreed to by all parties verbally and in email exchanges. Don’t you think RMA’s first clue that there might be problems with IceArizona would have been the bounced $25,000 check?

Didn’t RMA realize that IceArizona’s modus operandi appeared to be reliance upon everyone else’s money but their own? After all, the IceArizona owners put comparatively little of their own money up to buy the team. Instead they took out huge loans from Fortress Investment Group and the National Hockey League. IceArizona is in debt up to its eyeballs and the interest on that debt is being covered by Glendale every year in the form of the $15 million payment for arena management. Glendale has been directed by IceArizona to send the money directly to its lenders.

This suit promises to be fascinating but ugly. Rose+Moser+Allyn is a smart and saavy PR firm that has the capability to do a lot of damage to IceArizona’s reputation (such as it is). You would think IceArizona would settle out of court. If that happens RMA would be well advised to get a Cashier’s check or better still, cash.

© Joyce Clark, 2014

FAIR USE NOTICE

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright Law and who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use,’ you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

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