Decision day nears: NBA owners to vote Wednesday
With no recommendation coming Monday from the NBA’s relocation/finance committee, the fate of Chris Hansen’s persistent push to bring the Sacramento Kings to Seattle remains unclear.
Seattle Times reporter
DALLAS — A teleconference held by the NBA’s relocation/finance committee Monday added no clarity to the continuing Seattle-Sacramento battle over the Kings.
According to several sources and reports, the committee decided not to cast another recommendation on whether the Kings should be allowed to relocate. That was generally interpreted as meaning the committee is standing by the 7-0 vote the relocation committee made April 29 to recommend the Kings not be allowed to relocate to Seattle.
But one league source, as well as several reports, indicated that does not mean the issue is settled.
The 30 members of the NBA Board of Governors will meet Wednesday, when they are scheduled to cast a final vote on a saga that began in January when a Seattle group led by Chris Hansen and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer reached an agreement to buy 65 percent of the Kings, with the intent to move them to Seattle.
Sources have said representatives of each city will make presentations before the board of governors on Wednesday. It’s thought the finance committee might meet before the board of governors meetings that day as well.
And some think the presentations could help sway undecided owners, especially those on the finance committee, which has yet to state its intentions, despite apparently being part of Monday’s meetings.
Michael McCann, a legal analyst for NBA-TV, said he thinks it’s possible the board of governors won’t vote Wednesday.
“I think if the finance committee needs more time than Wednesday, it would ask the NBA for it,” he said. “Since the merits of Hansen’s offer and the merits of Ballmer and others in their group are the focus of the finance committee (as opposed to the relocation committee’s focus on the merits of Sacramento as a market), it is plausible the two committees could disagree on recommendations. I have no reason to believe that is happening or will happen, but if it does I could see the league postponing the vote until more consensus. Chances are, though, the league does not postpone.”
It had been expected that the meetings here would rubber stamp the April 29 relocation committee recommendation.
But that was before Hansen upped the ante, first by raising his offer for the team to a total valuation of $625 million, and then by agreeing to a backup deal with the current owners of the team, the Maloof family, to buy 20 percent of the Kings if his attempt to become a majority owner is denied.
Owning 20 percent of the team would allow Hansen to be in position to take over majority ownership if Sacramento is unable to get an arena deal completed. However, even a minority ownership needs approval of 23 of the 30 owners, and many regard it as unlikely such a sale would be approved because Hansen has made it clear his ultimate goal is to move the team to Seattle.
The wild card is that the Maloofs do not have to sell the team to a Sacramento group led by Vivek Ranadive if the agreement with Hansen is denied. That could set up the specter of an awkward season, or seasons, in Sacramento for the Kings. The Maloofs have made it clear both publicly and privately they prefer to sell the team to the Hansen group. However, The Sacramento Bee newspaper reported Monday that the family might still be willing to sell to the Sacramento group depending on the NBA’s vote on Wednesday.
One league source said Hansen wants to force the NBA’s hand on denying him the right to buy the team, despite the fact that his offer price would be the richest in league history and that he has also offered a relocation fee of $115 million — about $4 million for each of the league’s 29 other owners.
ESPN.com reported Monday that the Hansen group has “generally worked around the league office” and is instead communicating directly with owners. Sacramento’s effort, meanwhile, has worked in tandem with the NBA office and Commissioner David Stern, who has made it clear his desire is that the team stay in Sacramento.
Expansion is thought to remain off the table in terms of solving this predicament.
The SportsBusiness Journal reported Monday that the NBA plans to begin informal negotiations during the summer toward its next TV deals. Current contracts with ESPN and Turner Sports expire after the 2015-16 season.
Stern has several times said it wouldn’t make sense to consider expansion without knowing how it would impact the next TV contracts.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @bcondotta.