Court Rejects NHL’s Claims Against Former Phoenix Coyotes Owner Jerry Moyes

PHOENIX, Arizona (Jan. 21, 2015) — A federal bankruptcy court judge made recommendations today that would prevent the National Hockey League from recovering almost all of the $145 Million in damages the league sought against the former Phoenix Coyotes owner, trucking magnate Jerry Moyes.

The NHL claimed losses of over $112 million in operating expenses for the Coyotes after the league purchased the team in November 2009, $6.5 million paid to Wayne Gretzky on a contract owed by the Coyotes, more than $11.6 million in amounts paid to unsecured creditors and over $15 million in attorney’s fees. The claims for operating expenses and for sums paid to Gretzky were previously rejected in a ruling by the court in October 2013.

In an opinion issued today, Judge Redfield T. Baum, Sr. recommended the District Court grant a motion for summary judgment for Moyes on the remaining claims for attorney’s fees and monies paid to unsecured creditors, with the exception of attorney’s fees and expenses incurred after Nov. 2, 2009. The NHL’s claim for attorney’s fees after Nov. 2, 2009 will have to be tried before a jury, because the NHL previously demanded a jury trial.

“This is a very significant court win for Jerry Moyes,” said Steve Susman, the founder of Susman Godfrey LLP, the high-stakes litigation firm that represented Moyes and his wife. “The fact that the court granted summary judgment on all but part of one lesser claim demonstrates the strength of his position that he acted at all times in the best interests of the franchise.”

The District Court originally referred the case to Judge Baum to make recommendations on the matters due to Judge Baum’s factual expertise of the bankruptcy case.

In addition to Susman, partners Shawn RabinKalpana Srinivasan and associate Oleg Elkhunovich make up the Susman Godfrey legal team representing Moyes in the lawsuit.

Moyes bought the Phoenix Coyotes in 2006. The team struggled financially, however, and entered bankruptcy in 2009. A potential sale of the team to Blackberry founder Jim Balsillie collapsed in bankruptcy court after the NHL fought the sale, objecting to Balsillie’s plans to move the franchise to Ontario. The NHL bought the Coyotes out of bankruptcy in 2009, and subsequently sued Moyes for the league’s operating costs in running the team. In May 2013, the league approved the sale of the Coyotes to Renaissance Sports & Entertainment for $170 million.

This story has been picked up by several news outlets.  You can read more at Phoenix Business Journal, Law360The Globe and Mail and The Hockey News.