More complications reported in possible Sacramento Kings sale and move to Seattle
A report claims a group in Sacramento wants to buy the Kings and build a new arena in Sacramento. Another report says the Maloof family, the owners of the team, is determined to retain some stake of the team and is willing to use the threat of moving to Anaheim and a possible lawsuit as leverage.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Two potential new complications emerged Saturday in relation to the possible sale of the Sacramento Kings to a group that would relocate them to Seattle.
One was reported Saturday afternoon by The Sacramento Bee about a group eager to buy the team and build a $400 million arena on the site of a troubled shopping center in Sacramento, which the newspaper described as "a stunning new twist."
The other was related to the current owners wanting to retain a voice in how the team is run and using as leverage lawsuits and a threat to relocate the team on their own.
Neither report, though, could be confirmed — each was based on anonymous sources — leaving it difficult to determine exactly where things stand. If nothing else, the new stories seemed to indicate that the issue is far more complicated than was portrayed earlier in the week, when one report characterized the sale of the Kings to a Seattle group led by Chris Hansen as being so close that it was "first-and-goal at the one."
The Bee story marked the third report in two days of a potential Sacramento-area group or person interested in buying the team and keeping it there. All of the reports have come since news broke Wednesday that the team's current owners, the Maloof family, was in talks with Hansen's group on a sale of the franchise for at least $500 million — which would be the most in NBA history.
After those reports emerged, Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson said he would avidly search for potential local buyers who would keep the team in Sacramento.
Various media reports Friday identified two potential buyers — Mark Mastrov, the founder of 24-Hour Fitness, and Dale Carlsen of Sleep Train Mattress Centers.
The identity of the latest potential buyer was not identified, though it was characterized by the Bee as including "deep-pocket investors who have the ability to pull the deal together."
Sacramento officials say one factor on their side is that local owners would not have to pay a relocation fee — which would likely be at least $30 million — or pay off a $77 million outstanding loan the Maloofs have with the city. That would allow a local group to pay less than the $500 million to $525 million that reports have said Hansen's group — which also includes Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer — has offered.
Hansen's group is attempting to buy the team and move it to Seattle to play in KeyArena for two seasons, beginning next season while a new arena in the Sodo District is constructed.
Any sale of the team would not be approved until the NBA Board of Governors meets in April. The NBA also has a deadline of March 1 to apply to relocate a team.
The Seattle Times reported Thursday that the Maloofs desired to not only keep a small percentage of a stake of the team but also wanted to retain an active role in the management of the franchise.
A report from longtime NBA beat writer Ric Bucher on Saturday stated that the Maloofs want so much to retain a role in the team that they are using as leverage "a threat to take the sweetheart deal still waiting for them in Orange County and, should the other owners not approve the deal out of allegiance to Dr. (Jerry) Buss (the owner of the Los Angeles Lakers) and the Lakers, take them to court with an antitrust suit."
That, Bucher wrote, "is far messier than anybody wants, Maloofs included, I suspect, but I also can't see anyone buying the team and still giving the Maloofs any sort of say."
Bucher, a former ESPN NBA analyst who now is a radio talk-show host and basketball analyst in the Bay Area, wrote that the pending deadline "might be the biggest motivator in all of this."
The Maloof family has owned the Kings in Sacramento since 1998. Brothers Joe and Gavin have been particularly involved in the day-to-day operations.
Since 2006, the Maloofs have been attempting to either get a new arena built in Sacramento or move the team. A planned move to Anaheim in 2011 was scuttled at the last minute, due in part to an impassioned plea by Johnson to NBA commissioner David Stern to give the city more time.
An apparent agreement on a new arena in Sacramento last year was killed by the Maloofs at the final minute, leaving the team's future in limbo. The Maloofs had stated consistently they were not interested in selling the team. But reports emerged this week of negotiations between Hansen's group and the Maloofs, and it has since been confirmed the team is for sale.
The NBA has offered no comment on any of the rumors. Hansen's group has also declined to comment, as have the Maloofs, other than to issue a statement that they will not comment on rumors.
Stern has long been thought to want to keep a team in Sacramento, in part due to the efforts of Johnson, a Sacramento native who was a three-time NBA All-Star in a career that lasted from 1987 to 2000.
Stern, though, has also been reported to want to return a team to Seattle before he retires in February 2014.
Hansen has a deal with Seattle and King County to build a new arena in Sodo once he and his investment group secure a team.
Plans to build a $490 million arena were approved by the City Council and the Metropolitan King County Council last October.
Seattle has been without an NBA team since 2008 when the Sonics were relocated to Oklahoma City by owner Clay Bennett.
Hansen has spent the past year laying the groundwork for an arena deal and attempting to buy a team to move to Seattle.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @bcondotta