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CEO Ahron Cohen: Coyotes’ ownership change could mean long-term success

(L-R) Alex Galchenyuk #17, Clayton Keller #9, Alex Goligoski #33, Nick Cousins #25 and Jakob Chychrun #6 of the Arizona Coyotes celebrate after Keller scored a goal against the Winnipeg Jets during the second period of the NHL game at Gila River Arena on February 24, 2019 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The Arizona Coyotes officially have a new majority owner after businessman Alex Meruelo finalized his purchase of the team on Monday.

Of course, only time can truly tell what this will mean for Arizona’s NHL franchise. But perhaps this is a key turning point, and the organization seems to believe that’s the case. Just ask president and CEO Ahron Cohen, who joined 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station’s Doug & Wolf on Tuesday.

“I think everybody should really feel very proud of this and very excited about what this means for the Coyotes’ future,” he said.

Long before taking over for Andrew Barroway as the Coyotes’ majority owner, Meruelo grew up in Los Angeles. His parents, Cuban immigrants, were business-owners who raised a business-owner: At a young age, Meruelo got into the pizza business, and many years later finds himself a billionaire.

“It’s just such an amazing story,” Cohen said. “You see this person through hard work and his entrepreneurial spirit become a billionaire. … What just really stood out was his passion for growing businesses and making things better. He’s not a guy that buys asset and says, ‘Okay, I’m going to hold it for six months and then I’m going to flip it and turn a profit.’ All these businesses that he has, he holds them and grows them.”

That should be key for Coyotes fans, who wish for not only on-ice success in the coming season but off-ice stability in the coming decades.

Fresh off of their best season in several years, the Coyotes finished just shy of a playoff spot and also saw a boost to their TV ratings, ticket sales and more. Yet, in the midst of that, rumors swirled about the team getting new ownership. Cohen saw on-ice success to be imperative, regardless of the arena logistics or ownership situation. The organization tried to check that box, no matter what.

Then, in addressing the ownership matters as the team fought for a playoff spot, the Coyotes wanted someone who would keep the team in the Valley.

“There had been a lot of rumors about us looking for investors and different ownership scenarios and things like that,” Cohen said. “But what I said at that time was a precondition to anything we were looking to do was that the person coming in had to be able to help us be successful here in Arizona for the very long-term. That’s what we were very focused on looking at and [we] looked at a lot of different things.

“He was also investing in an ascending asset. He saw some of the achievements that we accomplished over the past year in terms of record numbers and attendance and ticket revenues and sponsorships and sees a team that’s right on the cusp of making the playoffs and doing some great things. He was obviously very involved with myself and with [GM] John [Chayka] regarding the discussions around Phil Kessel.”

Cohen hopes that this change in ownership could mean getting the Coyotes to places they haven’t been before. And perhaps the belief that that’s possible was a selling point for Meruelo.

“One of the things I told him, and I know he’s a competitive guy, I said, ‘Look, we need to embrace this challenge because one day when we’re holding up the Stanley Cup here in Arizona for all of our fans to see, that’s going to be viewed as one of the greatest success stories in the history of sports.'”

Doug & Wolf

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