Chris Hansen reached another benchmark Wednesday in his bid to return the NBA to Seattle when Commissioner David Stern said the bidders for the Kings have filed to relocate the franchise from Sacramento to KeyArena.
“We have had submitted a signed agreement to have the team sold to a very strong group from Seattle,” Stern told reporters in Minneapolis before the Timberwolves’ game against visiting San Antonio. The application deadline is March 1. Stern said the league is examining the sale and the potential relocation.
The Seattle ownership group, which includes Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, has agreed to buy 65 percent of the Kings for $341 million, on a franchise value of $525 million.
A counteroffer from Sacramento businessmen led by Mayor Kevin Johnson is expected, possibly by next week. Johnson said he will attend the NBA All-Star Game in Houston to lobby owners.
Stern previously said the offer will be considered, even though earlier attempts at resolving the city’s arena problem with the Maloof family ownership have fallen through. NBA owners will consider the offers and the relocation at a regularly scheduled meeting April 19.
“My guess is it’s likely that the mayor of Sacramento will appear before the board with an alternate plan,” Stern said. “And that’s why we have a board of governors, to make difficult decisions like this one.”
Stern said he didn’t believe the decision would turn on money.
“I don’t think it’s a bidding war,” he said. “There’s a series of issues that are defined by our constitution that have to be considered. One of the things that our board is mandated to consider is the support for the team in the prior city. So there are real issues for the board to consider, about the buildings, about the likelihood they will be built, about the support from the cities.”
In an unusual twist, rather than have separate committees vet the new ownership group as well as the relocation, Stern has combined both committees into one. That combined group will prepare a single report.
“I did the sensible thing: I combined the committees and said, ‘You guys figure it out.’ We’ll see how that works,” Stern said.
However, even with a combined committee, the sale of the franchise needs just a majority vote by the Board of Governors, while relocation would require a three-fourths majority, according to NBA bylaws.
In a report in Wednesday’s Sacramento Bee, it was revealed that discussions were held last May to move the Kings to suburban Las Vegas, where the Maloofs’ business empire is headquartered, highlighted by their ownership of the Palms Casino. Those discussions came about a month after last-ditch plans to build a new arena in downtown Sacramento proved unsuccessful.