Meet the BlackBerry Billionaire Who Wants to Buy The Coyotes for Canada

Martin AverySenior Writer IMay 7, 2009

PITTSBURGH - OCTOBER 05:  Jim Balsillie Chairman and Co-CEO of Research In Motion and new owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins poses with his Blackberry in a press conference announcing the purchase of the team alongside Mario Lemieux after the first period at Mellon Arena on October 5, 2006 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Jim Balsillie has been trying to buy a National Hockey League franchise for years. Who is this guy, you ask?

Blsillie is the billionaire behind BlackBerry and Research In Motion. He loves hockey and wants to see a team in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. He tried to get the Nashville Predators and Pittsburgh Penguins and his bid on the Phoenix Coyotes is now pending approval.

Balsillie also had discussions with the Buffalo Sabres about purchasing that team, but no offer was made.

Balsillie wants to make the Coyotes to become the seventh NHL franchise in Canada. “The current team ownership asked that I table an offer to purchase the Coyotes an significant discussions resulted in an offer that is in the best interests of the franchise, the NHL, and the great hockey fans of Canada and Southern Ontario,” Mr. Balsillie said by way of a press release.

“I am excited to move closer to bringing an NHL franchise to what I believe is one of the best un-served hockey markets in the world, Southern Ontario. A market with devoted hockey fans, a rich hockey history, a growing and diversified economy and a population of more than seven million people,” he said.

At the request of the Coyotes franchise owner, Mr. Balsillie has also agreed to post
debtor-in-possession (DIP) financing of $17 million (U.S.).

Debtor in possession
financing is bridge financing provided when a company is in an insolvency proceeding which allows the company to continue to operate through the proceeding in advance of a restructuring or sale.

Prior to a final decision being reached on the proposed sale, he called for Canadian fans who want to see a seventh NHL franchise in Canada to make their voices heard.

“It’s particularly important for Canadian fans to demonstrate the kind of hockey market we have and the passion we share for this game. We want those Canadian voices who want a seventh NHL team in Canada to be heard throughout the North American NHL market.

Hockey fans can log on to www.makeitseven.ca to add their voices to the call
for an NHL team in Southern Ontario,  Balsillie said.

Balsillie is a Canadian billionaire. He is a Chartered Accountant and co-CEO of Research In Motion. With a net worth of $3.4 billion, he is the ninth-richest person in Canada.

He was born in the small town of Seaforth, Ontario, Canada, and raised in Peterborough, Ontario, home of the Peterborough Petes of the Ontario Hockey League.

Balsillie got a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the Trinity College at University of Toronto, where he was admitted to the Zeta Psi fraternity. He earned an MBA from Harvard University in 1989.

He is an athlete and a passionate fitness advocate. He was Athlete of the Year at Trinity College, University of Toronto.

He plays hockey and golf at competitive levels, and coaches his son's soccer and basketball teams. He currently trains and competes in Men's Long Course Triathlons.

Balsillie made his billions from his company's BlackBerry.

The BlackBerry is a wireless handheld device introduced in 1999 as a two-way pager. In 2002, the more commonly known smartphone BlackBerry was released, which supports push e-mail, mobile telephone, text messaging, internet faxing, web browsing and other wireless information services as well as a multi-touch interface.

The BlackBerry was developed by the Canadian company Research In Motion (RIM). RIM is headquartered in Waterloo, a mid-size city in Ontario.

RIM develops its own software for its devices.

It was rumored that Balsillie wanted to move an NHL franchise to Waterloo. Hamilton is not far away and already has a suitable arena, called Copps Coliseum, which is the home of the Hamilton Bulldogs of the AHL.

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