A local group attempting to keep the Kings in Sacramento surfaced Friday afternoon after earlier reports said the sale of the NBA franchise to Chris Hansen and a move to Seattle was done.
According to the Sacramento Bee, the founder of 24 Hour Fitness, Mark Mastrov, wants to buy the team and work with the city to build a downtown arena, a plan that the current Kings owners, the Maloof family, rejected a year ago. Mastrov sold 24 Hour Fitness for $1.7 billion in 2005.
Mastrov said “we’ve been in touch with the Maloofs — there’s definitely interest.”
Multiple media reports say the Maloofs and Hansen settled on a sales price of $525 million, which would make the deal the second-highest price fetched for an NBA team after the Washington Wizards sold for $550 million in June 2010. The original report of the sale had a price of $500 million, but the Maloofs wanted to retain some operational control. The extra $25 million apparently eliminated the Maloofs’ desire to stay with the club.
“There’s definitely interest,” Mastrov told the Bee. “We’ve been in touch with the Maloofs.(Owning an NBA franchise) is a passion of mine. I love basketball and I love the NBA.”
Mastrov, who lives in the Bay Area city of Lafayette, bid $350 million for the Golden State Warriors before the franchise was sold for $450 million in 2010. The Sonics were sold by Howard Schultz to Oklahomans led by Clay Bennett for $350 million in 2008.
A sale to local owners presumably would reduce the price. The Kings owe the city $77 million that would have to be paid off from the sale proceeds in a move to Seattle, and a $35 million relocation fee mandated by the NBA would be avoided.
The owner of Sleep Train Mattress Centers, Dale Carlsen, the naming-rights sponsor of the Kings arena, said he has talked to Mayor Kevin Johnson about joining with others to buy the team. Billionaire supermarket tycoon Ron Burkle was mentioned Wednesday by Johnson.
Neither the Kings nor Hansen’s group had comment on a story by a Comcast Sports Net reporter in the Bay Arena that said the Seattle sale was a done deal.
The NBA has a March 1 deadline to request a relocation for the 2013-14 season. Hansen’s plan has been to play in a modestly upgraded KeyArena for at least two seasons while his proposed $500 arena is built in his preferred location of SoDo south of Safeco Field. That plan awaits the completion of an environmental impact statement, as well as resolution of a lawsuit by the longshore union that opposes the site near the entry to the Port of Seattle.
The Kings are more than $200 million in debt, including $75 million to the league and, at a little above 13,000, are last in the league in attendance.