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Originally published August 23, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified June 13, 2008 at 12:01 PM

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Sonics co-owner McClendon fined $250K

The NBA fined Sonics minority partner Aubrey McClendon $250,000 for comments he made last week in The (Oklahoma City) Journal Record about...

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The NBA fined Sonics minority partner Aubrey McClendon $250,000 for comments he made last week in The (Oklahoma City) Journal Record about his hopes of moving the team to Oklahoma City.

Reached Wednesday night, league spokesman Tim Frank confirmed the punitive action.

Repeated messages to the Sonics were not returned.

McClendon, chief executive of Chesapeake Energy, came under fire after he told the Journal: "We didn't buy the team to keep it in Seattle, we hoped to come here. We know it's a little more difficult financially here in Oklahoma City, but we think it's great for the community and if we could break even we'd be thrilled."

In a statement following the Aug. 13 story, Sonics and Storm majority owner Clay Bennett said McClendon was "not speaking on behalf of the ownership group."

The Oklahoma City-based ownership group has set an Oct. 31 deadline to reach an agreement on a new arena in the Seattle area. If an agreement is not in place, Bennett has said he will petition the league to move the Sonics and Storm out of the region. Oklahoma City is the likely destination.

"They've got 60 days to make some decisions they haven't been willing to make in the past year, and if they make them in a way that satisfies Clay, then the team will stay there," McClendon told the Journal. "If they don't meet the requirements he's laid out, the team will move and Clay has indicated they'll come to Oklahoma City."

The state Legislature rejected Sonics ownership's proposal for a $400 million state contribution toward a $500 million Renton arena this spring and Seattle officials have said they'll refuse an early buyout of the team's KeyArena lease, which runs through 2010.

"It is my hope we will see a breakthrough in the next 60 days that will result in securing a new arena for the Sonics and Storm in the Greater Seattle area," Bennett said last week in a statement.

Bennett, who is chairman and controlling owner, McClendon, Tom Ward and Jeffrey Records each paid $50 million as primary owners in the Professional Basketball Club, which purchased the teams last year for $350 million from the Howard Schultz-led Basketball Club of Seattle. The PBC is an Oklahoma City-based consortium, which consists of the four primary owners, four minority owners and a total of 12 investors.

According to McClendon, the group attempted to buy the New Orleans Hornets, which spent the majority of the past two seasons in Oklahoma City, but turned its attention to the Sonics when Hornets owner George Shinn declined the group's offer.

"We started to look around and at that time the Sonics were going through some ownership challenges in Seattle," McClendon told the Journal Record. "So Clay, very artfully and skillfully, put himself in the middle of those discussions and to the great amazement and surprise to everyone in Seattle, some rednecks from Oklahoma, which we've been called, made off with the team."

The Oklahoma City energy tycoon had been a silent partner before his comments last week.

Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or pallen@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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