According to multiple sources, including Yahoo! Sports and USA Today, the Seattle group led by hedge-fund manager Chris Hansen and Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer, has made significant progress in its negotiations to purchase the Sacramento Kings from the Magoof – er, Maloof – brothers that have a majority ownership of the Kings. An individual described as being “close to the negotiations” said he is confident a deal, reportedly carrying a sale price of $500 million, will eventually get done.
But maybe not today or tomorrow: There is no apparent timeline other than the NBA’s March 1 deadline to apply for relocation. And if the Maloofs’ history is any guide, maybe not ever.
The Maloofs have a well-documented past of backing out of deals that appeared to have been completed (see Thiel: Hansen Closer To Bringing Back NBA). They seemed ready, for example, to move the Kings to Anaheim in March of 2011 before the deal collapsed when the Maloofs went into retreat, saying it wasn’t in the best interests of the family, although the NBA didn’t want a third team in the Southern California media market.
Later, the Maloofs appeared to have a deal in place for a new arena in Sacramento after NBA Commissioner David Stern went to bat for the brothers, and Mayor Kevin Johnson spent sizable political capital on their behalf. That also fell apart, infuriating Stern.
More recently, the Maloof brothers seemed interested to take the Kings to Virginia Beach, VA. – but the politicians there couldn’t come up with the money for an arena.
One report earlier this week said that if the Maloofs agree to sell the team, reportedly to be called the Sonics, to Hansen and Ballmer, they would demand to retain a minority interest in the franchise. But even if the Maloofs are marginalized as minority owners, having them in a new Seattle mix would not be good for business.
Question is whether the deal will get done at all, and that’s where you come in.