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Stillman secures control of NHL champions, Coyotes sale gets green light

St Louis Blues chairman Tom Stillman has secured complete control of the reigning National Hockey League champion, while Alex Meruelo’s takeover of the Arizona Coyotes has been approved by the NHL’s board of governors.

Stillman’s ownership group has acquired the minority interest in the Blues previously held by Sports Capital Holdings (SCH), the holding company of the previous Blues ownership group, which was in place from 2006 to the team’s takeover in 2012.

Stillman’s group acquired the Blues in a deal reportedly worth around $130m (€115m) and the latest purchase means it now owns 100 per cent of the team. The agreement completes a full exit of SCH, the Blues’ former majority owners, from any interest in the team. Every member of the existing ownership group will remain in place, with Stillman continuing to serve as chairman and governor.

The Blues last week completed a 4-3 Stanley Cup Finals victory over the Boston Bruins to win the first NHL championship since its foundation in 1967. “This is the best possible outcome for the St. Louis Blues, our city and community, and our supporters everywhere,” Stillman said.

“Our all-local ownership group acquired the Blues in 2012 with two overriding goals: win a Stanley Cup for St. Louis, and secure the long-term health of the franchise. Today the group made another major commitment, purchasing the only remaining outside interest in the team.

“Going forward, it will be business as usual, both on and off the ice. We will continue to serve St. Louis by investing in the Blues, the Enterprise Center, and the community, and we look forward to raising our first Stanley Cup banner in October.”

Meanwhile, yesterday’s (Wednesday’s) board of governors meeting saw the NHL approve Cuban-American billionaire businessman Mereulo as the league’s only majority owner. While Mereulo’s takeover of the Coyotes is set to formally close next month, the future of the long-troubled franchise was high on the agenda of yesterday’s meeting.

The Coyotes have gone through multiple owners, including the NHL itself; a name change; and long-running difficulties concerning the effort to develop a new arena over the past two decades. Mereulo, who is the sole owner of Meruelo Group, a construction and real estate development firm, will take over the team from Andrew Barroway, who has controlled it since 2015 and became the sole owner in 2017.

Barroway will retain a five-per-cent stake once the takeover is completed, with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman expressing his confidence that the new regime at the Coyotes can push through the arena effort.

“I think (Meruelo) is committed to trying to get a new arena in the right location and making it work,” Bettman said, according to the Associated Press news agency. “He is a person of substantial means, and he is very good, if you look at his career, in turning around businesses and making them successful. I think this is an extraordinarily positive step for the Coyotes and their fans in Arizona.”

The Coyotes currently play at the 15-year-old Gila River Arena in Glendale, but its location in the suburbs has hit attendances with a centrally-located facility the priority. NHL regulations prevent new owners from immediately applying to relocate teams, but Bettman yesterday refused to rule out the possibility with a number of cities currently eyeing an NHL team.

“I’d rather not go there, because I’m not going to issue threats,” Bettman added. “(Meruelo) has told us, including in his interview with the executive committee, that he very much likes Arizona. He wants to make it work there, and he’s going to try very hard for that to be the case. Obviously, the club is not viable long-term in Glendale, but hopefully we don’t get to that point.”