The news is coming fast and furious Sunday evening, as reports that a deal has been reached to sell the Sacramento Kings to a group of Seattle-based investors. The Maloof family and minority owner Bob Hernreich will sell their stake in the Kings franchise for roughly $340 million (65 percent of the reported $525-million team valuation).
According to our sources, any deal sending the Kings to Seattle would not be a done deal because any deal would be subject to an approval by the NBA’s Board of Governors. In addition, sources tell PBT that Sacramento has been approached by at least three groups of “heavy hitters.” Sacramento could be getting close to announcing a group that meets NBA criteria that has the “vision to transform one of the NBA’s most proven markets into a top NBA franchise.” This, they believe, will help win the NBA’s support for keeping the Kings in Sacramento.
One source close to the process told ESPN.com’s J.A. Adande that the Maloof family, as it was hoping, will retain a “small piece” of minority interest in the franchise after its expected relocation to Seattle and renaming as the SuperSonics for next season. It’s believed, though, that the Maloofs will hold no decision-making power once control of the franchise is transferred.
Stein also adds in his report that the valuation of the club includes relocation fees and a $30 million non-refundable fee to be paid directly to the Maloofs by February 1.
Yahoo! Sports Adrian Wojnarowski,who originally broke details of this deal 11 days ago, reports that the relocation to Seattle is a mere formality for the NBA Board of Governors.
The relocation committee has been briefed several times on the sale process to the Hansen-Ballmer group, sources said, and fully support the the franchise moving to Seattle for next season.
The relocation committee is chaired by Oklahoma City Thunder owner Clay Bennett, and includes Washington’s Ted Leonsis, Minnesota’s Glen Taylor, Utah’s Greg Miller, Miami’s Mickey Arison, Indiana’s Herb Simon and San Antonio’s Peter Holt. Bennett moved the Sonics from Seattle to Oklahoma City in 2008.
The NBA’s Board of Governors support this ownership group, want a team back in the Seattle market and will approve the sale at the next league meeting, sources said.
Meanwhile, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson released a statement on Facebook, once again promoting the reasons for Sacramento to remain an NBA city.
Sacramento has proven that it is a strong NBA market with a fan base that year in and year out has demonstrated a commitment to the Kings by selling out 19 of 27 seasons in a Top 20 market and owning two of the longest sellout streaks in NBA history. When it comes to keeping the team in our community, Sacramento is playing to win. In particular, we have been focused like a laser on identifying an ownership group that will both have the financial resources desired by the NBA and the vision to make the Kings the NBA equivalent of what the Green Bay Packers have been in the NFL.
With Johnson already promised an opportunity to plead the capital city’s case to the Board of Governors, Sacramento still has life.
Johnson is currently forming an ownership group to submit a counteroffer to the league. He now knows two things – the team is officially for sale and how much he needs to come up with in order to be competitive.
One major point that should be brought out in this discussion is the fate of the minority owners in Sacramento. While Bob Cook’s 7-percent stake is locked up in bankruptcy court, the remaining 28 percent are not part of this deal to Seattle.
The estate of Joe Benvenuti, the man who originally fronted the money to purchased the Kings in 1984 from a group in Kansas City for a reported $12 million, stands to see their stake relocate to Seattle without any recourse. More importantly, a new ownership group could ask for a cash call to pay for a new arena in Seattle. If the minority owners cannot or do not comply, their shares in the team can be diluted by the majority stake.
According to Steve Large of CBS 13 in Sacramento, minority owners in Sacramento have yet to be informed of a potential sale.
While this is a dark moment in Sacramento, it was expected. This story will continue to play out over the coming weeks. There will be plenty more highs and lows as this fight for the Kings reaches a fever pitch.
- Seattle Times – Reports: NBA’s Kings to Seattle done deal
- Sacramento Bee – Kings finalize deal to sell team to Seattle, sources say
- USA Today: Sacramento Kings reach agreement with Seattle group
James Ham contributed to the authoring of this post.