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5/6/2009
03:07 PM
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BlackBerry Is Nice, But RIM Chief Wants Hockey Team

Jim Balsillie has turned his attention to the Arizona desert where the Coyotes are in bankruptcy.


Jim Balsillie
photo by AP

As the co-CEO of Research In Motion, Jim Balsillie has made BlackBerry smartphones the indispensible instrument of presidents and CEOs the world over. As an amateur hockey player, however, he hasn't been able to buy a hockey team at any price.

Until now, he hopes. Balsillie has emerged as the potential buyer of the bankrupt National Hockey League's Phoenix Coyotes. Balsillie has been striving to bring NHL hockey to Southern Ontario, probably near RIM's headquarters in Waterloo, Ontario.

Balsillie, who is reported to be an excellent amateur hockey player, has tried and failed before in his quest to purchase a hockey team. The first time, he had to deal with hockey immortal Mario Lemieux of the Pittsburgh Penguins. According to media reports at the time in 2006, Balsillie was prepared to pay $175 million for the Penguins, but the deal fell through.

Then, in 2007, Balsillie was interested in buying the Nashville Predators NHL franchise, but that deal, too, didn't come to pass. The Penguins and the Predators remained in their home arenas, and both teams are currently thriving and playing in the Stanley Cup Playoff series.

Now Balsillie has turned his attention to the Arizona desert where the Coyotes are in bankruptcy. Even the presence of hockey's all-time greatest scorer, Wayne Gretzky, wasn't enough to pull enough fans from the desert into the ice stadium in suburban Phoenix.

According to media reports, Balsillie has made a $212.5 million offer for the Coyotes, and a condition of his bid is that the team be moved to Southern Ontario where there are as many hockey fans as there are golfers in Arizona.

The deal could also involve another high tech mogul -- Dell's Michael Dell, who is reported to have a stake in the Coyotes through one of his investment units.

Hockey has long attracted high-tech entrepreneurs. Roger Marino, the "M" in EMC, once had an ownership stake in the Pittsburgh Penguins. Other successful high-tech entrepreneurs with ownership stakes in NHL teams include former AOL principal Ted Leonsis of the Washington Capitals and Computer Associates founder Charles Wang of the New York Islanders.

Balsillie can be proud that his BlackBerry devices are used throughout the world from President Obama on down, but what he really wants is to be able to sit in an ice arena in Ontario and watch a hockey team of his own score goals.


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