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Originally published Friday, May 3, 2013 at 4:20 PM

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Sacramento group puts money in escrow; arena opponents say they will file suit

The Sacramento investment group hoping to purchase the Kings says it has deposited 50 percent of its offer into escrow. Meanwhile, a Sacramento group says it will sue the city, claiming the city withheld information about the arena project.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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An investment group attempting to buy the Sacramento Kings and keep the team in Sacramento put 50 percent of its offered purchase price into escrow Friday, according to various Sacramento media reports.

The deposit was one of the last significant hurdles in the Sacramento effort to stop the Kings from moving to Seattle.

The Sacramento group is offering $341 million for the Kings, a backup offer if the NBA does not approve a $358 million bid from a Seattle group led by Chris Hansen.

The NBA's Relocation Committee voted 7-0 on Monday to recommend that the team not be allowed to move to Seattle. Still, the league has yet to rule whether to approve Hansen's agreement to purchase the team from the current owners, the Maloof family, who have said they would prefer to sell the team to Hansen.

While the Relocation Committee vote sent a loud signal that the league wants the team to stay in Sacramento, and potentially persuade Hansen to stop his pursuit of the team, Hansen wrote on his sonicsarena.com website Monday night he intends to see the process through.

That attempt will include meeting with the NBA Board of Governors when it meets in New York on May 15 to cast a final vote.

What could be one option is Hansen arguing to buy the team and keep it in Sacramento if the city completes its arena project, but to then have the ability to relocate it if the arena does not unfold as planned. The Board of Governors would have to approve the sale to Hansen, though.

A Sacramento group called the Coalition for Responsible Arena Development said Friday it was suing Sacramento on the grounds the city withheld information about the arena project, specifically the nature of the $258 million in funds from the city.

The suit reads in part that city manager John Shirey, mayor Kevin Johnson and others have conspired to provide a "secret subsidy" to the Sacramento investment group.

The suit further alleges the Kings franchise was worth "approximately $400 million, and not the $525 million being offered by the Seattle Investor Group" and that the Sacramento group "demanded compensation from the City in order to make up the difference between their estimated value of $400 million and the $525 million required to match" the Seattle bid.

The suit also alleges that city officials "conspired" to provide the money to the Sacramento investment group and keep it from the public.

The suit alleges the three "sweeteners" are the transfer of city-owned parking facilities, various billboard leases and city-owned real estate.

The suit was filed in California Superior Court in Sacramento.

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com.

On Twitter @bcondotta


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