Sacramento is the big winner in struggle to keep the Kings
Sacramento is thrilled to keep its NBA team, excited about what that will mean for development of the city.
Seattle Times staff reporter
In case anyone needed clarification, David Stern summed up the contentious battle for the Kings.
"It's a victory for Sacramento, not a victory for the NBA," the commissioner said Wednesday after the league's Board of Governors voted 22-8 against the bid by an investment group led by Chris Hansen to relocate the franchise to Seattle.
Stern praised the efforts of Hansen and Steve Ballmer, whose group had a deal with the current owners, the Maloof family, to purchase 65 percent of the Kings for $406 million. Hansen also offered to pay a $116 million relocation fee to return the NBA to Seattle after a five-year absence.
However, a feverish rally in Sacramento the past five months, which included assembling an ownership group and producing a downtown arena deal with the city, proved to be Seattle's undoing.
Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, who led the comeback charge, was in a celebratory mood after the league's decision to keep the Kings in Sacramento, where the franchise has resided the past 28 years.
"We are really excited to be from Sacramento today," he said. "We know clearly that the team is staying in Sacramento, and that is good news for our community. I just want to take a moment to thank our fans, our community; you kept us in this game day-in and day-out, so one big thank you to you folks in Sacramento."
Silicon Valley tech entrepreneur Vivek Ranadive, the lead investor for the Sacramento group, has offered the Maloof family $341 million for their controlling 65 percent stake. He said the group has put 100 percent of its offer in escrow and is eager to conclude the sale of the team.
"Our lawyers have been talking for some time, and we believe we can get this done very quickly," Ranadive said.
Stern urged the Maloofs to complete negotiations before the end of the week.
Speaking to reporters in Dallas after the meeting, Kings co-owner George Maloof said he'll consult with his family and Hansen before proceeding. He acknowledged a plan to sell a minority share to Hansen.
"Chris put his heart and soul into this," Maloof said. "He's a gentleman. There's a lot to talk about."
He added: "We will work with anybody."
Johnson said that, for Sacramento, Wednesday's decision was about more than basketball and a fancy new arena.
"It's transformative," he said. "You're going to see a situation where Sacramento will be changed forever for the good because of what's transpired in the last couple days."
Roger Niello, president of the Sacramento Metro Chamber, called the decision a game-changer for the city.
"The Kings are very important to us in Sacramento and the region, but what's really exciting about the deal is that group of highly successful business people from around the state of California saw something in Sacramento that excited them from a business perspective," Niello said. "The arena development will kick-start development in our urban core, and that's the real victory in all of this."
Sacramento's plan to build a $448 million arena for the Kings includes $258 million in public subsidies.
The 64-year-old Niello, who has lived in Sacramento since he was 7 years old, said he envisions the city building an L.A. Live-type of complex that would attract hotels and restaurants.
"In five, 10 years, I see that area becoming a much more vibrant area socially in the evenings," he said. "Downtown activity during the day is pretty active for the state capital. Not so much at night. That's going to change."
Developer Mark Friedman, who joined Johnson and Ranadive in Dallas for one last pitch to the NBA owners, said the proposed arena could be the centerpiece for downtown renovation.
"We are on the cusp of doing something that is truly transformational in our community," he said. "The construction of the new downtown arena will absolutely transform our downtown.
"It will give us the kind of entertainment facilities that all of us have wanted for many years, and I have to thank the NBA for giving us that opportunity. Because, as the mayor said, this is more than basketball, but it wouldn't be possible without basketball."
Johnson expressed sympathy to Sonics fans.
"My hat goes off to Seattle," he said. "This is probably something that's really hard for me because I know what they feel like. I went to Seattle. I played against those fans in that community. It's a great sports town, it's a great basketball community. And for them to come up a little short, especially with what happened in 2008 to have lost their team, that's devastating. That's why we fought so hard. We didn't want to lose our team.
"We wish Seattle the best. Great sports town, great ownership group, and Chris Hansen and (Steve) Ballmer, and those folks — I hope they get a team at some point, I think they will. And this is just me, but I'm rooting for Seattle. If there is any way we can be helpful, you know, we will. They were awesome."
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or firstname.lastname@example.org