A federal judge has rejected bids by the National Hockey League and Canadian billionaire James Balsillie for the NHL's Phoenix Coyotes, leaving control of the bankrupt team in limbo.
Judge Redfield Baum of U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Phoenix left the door open for the NHL to resubmit a bid but turned down Balsillie, saying in a written decision on Wednesday that his bid did not adequately protect the NHL's right to select its members and the location of the league's teams.
There were no other bids outstanding for the team.
Baum said his decision effectively ended Balsillie's attempt to force the sale and relocation of the money-losing Coyotes over the NHL's wishes.
The NHL said it had no immediate comment, while a spokesman for Balsillie was not available for comment on the decision.
Balsillie, co-CEO of BlackBerry maker Research in Motion,,had offered $212.5 million for the franchise when it filed for bankruptcy in May, on the condition he be able to move the team to Hamilton, Ontario.
He later increased the bid to $242.5 million.
Before the bankruptcy, the team was owned by trucking magnate Jerry Moyes.
The NHL had accused Balsillie and Moyes of seeking to use the bankruptcy process to circumvent its rules regarding team ownership and relocation. In July, the league's board of governors rejected Balsillie as a potential owner.
Baum rejected the NHL bid without prejudice, meaning it could resubmit its bid.
In hockey parlance, the court is passing the puck to the NHL, who can decide to take another shot at the sale net or it can pass off the puck, Baum wrote in his 28-page ruling.
The NHL placed its own $140 million offer in August in an effort to remove the team from the oversight of the bankruptcy court and then resell it.
The case is in Re: Dewey Ranch Hockey LLC, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Arizona, No. 09-09488.
(Additional reporting by Emily Chasan; Editing by Ted Kerr)