Wayne Gretzky Makes Big Bucks if Balsillie Buys His Phoenix Coyotes

Martin AverySenior Writer IMay 7, 2009

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 21:  Head Coach Wayne Gretzky of the Phoenix Coyotes scratches his forehead as he looks on from the bench area during a line change in their NHL game against the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center on February 21, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. The Coyotes defeated the Kings 6-3.  (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)

If Jim Balsillie buys the bankrupt Phoenix Coyotes and moves them to Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, Wayne Gretzky could wind up coaching half an hour away from his old hometown and he could make millions on the deal.

Gretzky is not only the team’s coach, he is a minority owner. He could get an $8 million payment for deferred compensation under Balsillie’s offer to buy the Coyotes out of bankruptcy, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The Coyotes filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Tuesday. The team has lost $73 million the last three seasons, and its majority owner is no longer willing to subsidize its operating losses, the Wall Street Journal reports.

“The Great One,” could see an additional $14.5 million payment if he exercises an option in his contract to resign due to a change in ownership, court documents said.
Balsillie would probably want to keep Gretzky as coach as he is still a national hero in Canada.

Paul Waldie of the Globe and Mail estimates Gretzky stands to make as much as $22.5-million (U.S.) if the sale of the Coyotes to Balsillie is approved.

Gretzky owns 1.5 per cent of the Coyotes and serves as coach and "managing partner", according to Waldie. He says court filings show Balsillie's offer includes an immediate payment of $8-million to Gretzky.

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He is also entitled to an additional $14.5-million payment as part of the change in control provisions of his employment contract. Mr. Gretzky's employment contract allows him to walk away from the team if the club is sold and still collect whatever is owing on his contract, Waldie explains.

In an exclusive interview with Hockey Night in Canada on Feb. 14, 2009, Gretzky told Scott Oake that he wouldn't move north for family reasons, according to CBC Sports.com.

Gretzky has not yet commented about the proposed deal by Balsillie to buy the Coyotes.