As he prepares to attend the NBA All-Star Game this weekend in Houston, Sacramento delivered a message Tuesday to Seattle sports fans lusting for the sale of the Kings to Chris Hansen:
“Seattle people would like you to believe the deal is done (to move the Kings),” he said. “And the deal is not done.”
Johnson claimed he is getting “very close” to revealing the deep-pocketed investors he has recruited to make a pitch to buy the franchise from the Maloof family, according to the Sacramento Bee. But that disclosure apparently will wait until he attempts to lobby individual owners at the league’s annual mid-winter party.
The NBA is also requiring the Kings to have a serious plan to replace the suburban Sleep Train Arena with a new facility downtown. Two potential investors, Ron Burkle and Mark Mastrov, have been identified as interested.
Hansen has signed a purchase-and-sale agreement with the Maloofs for a franchise value of $525 million, and has filed paperwork to relocate the Kings to Seattle for the start of next season. Johnson probably has until the scheduled April 19 meeting of NBA owners to make a formal counteroffer, but raised the possibility Tuesday that he may make his case earlier to a league subcommittee charged with vetting the relocation.
In a related matter, the Maloofs Friday were forced to turn over documents to a bankruptcy court regarding the proposed sale of their 53 percent of the team, the Bee reported. One of the team’s minority owners, Bob Cook, has filed for bankruptcy, and insists his seven percent of the club includes a right of first refusal on the sale and relocation.
The documents are not public but will be made available to interested bidders, which could include Hansen and the investors interested in keeping the team in Sacramento. A potential bidding war would drive up the value of Cook’s shares, which are being auctioned off to satisfy creditors.
The ownership documents reportedly contain conflicting language over the right of first refusal, which may require a judge’s ruling. If a judge agrees that the right of first refusal is valid, it could complicate or delay Hansen’s ability to get relocation approval. The claim has yet to be made in court.