BY Art Thiel 07:02PM 04/10/2013

Thiel: Maloofs set deadline for Sactown offer

By threatening Sacramento bidders with a Friday deadline, the Maloof family is forcing a needy town to make hasty decisions so NBA can deny Seattle — for now.

Via threat from the Maloof family, NBA Commissioner David Stern seems to be pushing Sacramento to get its offer in order so the league can deny Hansen. / Getty Images

My guess is Sacramento longs for the old days, when real-life drama extended only as far as Gov. Schwarzenegger and his housekeeper. Couldn’t understand that either, but at least the plot line was familiar.

This business of savings the NBA Kings . . . well, there’s been nothing quite like it in sports. Even the effort to save the Sonics in 2008 was pedestrian compared to this net-free, high-wire act.

The latest is that the Maloof family, owner of the Kings who have a deal to sell the team to Seattle investor Chris Hansen, emerged from its self-imposed sarcophagus Wednesday to point a figurative gun to the heads of Mayor Kevin Johnson and his investors pals (whomever they may be at the moment) and said, “Give us proof your offer is legit by 5 p.m. Friday, or we kill you dead.”

At last that was the essence of the report by the Sacramento Bee, citing an unnamed tipster.  Whether the threat is a) true b) enforceable c) another sly, Machiavellian manipulation by the NBA, or d) the final word on the competition, is not clear. Johnson, as is his habit, is acting as mall security cop, telling people staring at the broken display window that there’s nothing to see here and please move along.

And by the way, the Kings are 27-50 and riding a four-game losing streak and the most-overvalued entertainment value since Milli Vanilli. But that’s another column.

Let’s hit the refresh button:

After hearing presentations by both sides April 3, the NBA has been scheduled to vote on the competing offers for the team April 19 at an owners meeting in New York. After the first meeting, a weary-looking NBA commissioner, David Stern, said the issue was unprecedented, weighty and complicated, and because of that, the vote might be delayed.

Three weeks earlier, Stern publicly scolded the Sacramento effort, saying a “substantial variance” existed and if the offer didn’t improve, “it would not even be considered.” The Sactown wealthies apparently responded, because Stern said that, in answer to a question April 3, the difference in value was no longer an issue.

But that was before lead investor Ron Burkle backed out Monday, citing a conflict of interest with his investment in an entertainment company, Relativity Media, that also is the fourth-largest athlete agency in the the U.S., representing more than 50 NBA players. NBA by-laws say a team owner can have no affiliation with players’ agents or financial interests.

With Burkle suddenly out of franchise ownership as well as arena planning — even though his involvement with Relativity was public record and frequently newsworthy — Johnson Tuesday introduced a new investor, real estate developer Mark Friedman, whose family apparently  leads Sactown in tycoonery. Johnson claimed that Friedman had been wanting to get into ownership all along, and Burkle’s abrupt departure was coincidence.

Right. And Mariners rookie pitcher Brandon Maurer meant to give up six runs in two-thirds of an inning Tuesday to the Houston Astros.

That brings us to Wednesday, and the Maloofs’ sudden extortion play. Here’s my guess: The NBA, already groaning after threatening Sactown once, told the Maloofs that if they want the bloated franchise price, they should go get it by threatening Sacramento again. The Maloofs said, yeah, we’d like to pistol-whip KJ and his pals.

People in Sacramento who have followed for years the Kings saga say that the Maloofs have always hated Burkle since he stepped in uninvited in 2011 and made an offer to buy the Kings, which gave Stern the leverage to stop the Maloofs’ sale of the Kings to a group that would have moved the franchise to Anaheim.

The belief is strong that the Maloofs would never sell the team to anyone associated with Burkle. Now that he is out of the picture, the Maloofs have insufficient personal animus that would preclude a sale to Sacramento. Cash is now cash again.

One the most astute saga-followers is Marcus Breton, longtime Bee columnist who wrote this Wednesday:

“NBA owners are nothing if not hypersensitive to the wishes and desires of fellow owners. The Maloofs are said to be very motivated to sell the Kings to Seattle interests. But with Burkle out, the Maloofs can’t pull the ‘disrespected card’ that they have dropped around Sacramento at every turn for years.

“Stern already said that the Maloofs have a say in the sale of the team, but not where the team resides. It’s up to Stern to make sure that the Sacramento group can make the Maloofs whole – and it seems that everyone agrees that it can.”

As the Maloof threat pertains to Hansen and Seattle, it appears that the NBA is doing everything it can to push Sacramento into presentability in order to deny Hansen. Stern has repeatedly demanded that the Sactowners tuck in the shirt, zip the trousers, tie the shoes and run a comb through the raggedly mop, otherwise it’s no Kings for them.

The Bee story Wednesday said if Sactown provides proper documentation to the Maloofs of their offer, the Maloofs will consider it “a serious back-up proposal” if the NBA turns down Hansen. The Bee’s source declined further comment about who issued the ultimatum, when, or why.

The threat represents the first public peep from the Maloofs, and even though Maloof family spokesman Eric Rose told the newspaper, “Our policy is not to negotiate in public,” they sure as hell just did.

If you are a Sonics fan interested enough to make it this far, the conclusion is unsettling: The NBA is using Seattle’s offer for the Kings to force Sacramento into all manner of hasty agreements and actions to not only allow the league to keep the team there, but to inflate the values of all NBA franchises by setting a floor of $525 million (Hansen’s offer) for the most plain among them.

Here is the easiest way to understand the current tangle:

Seattle desires an NBA team. Sacramento needs an NBA team.

Seattle can wait. The needy will do anything to avoid getting shot.



  • Michael Kaiser

    The article says, “Seattle can wait. The needy (Sacramento) will do anything to avoid getting shot.” And yet which city is on its knees trying to pry the franchise away? And this also for ” the most-overvalued entertainment value since Milli Vanilli.” Interesting.

    • billy bob

      which city is falling all over themselves adding and subtracting investors daily? Which city cobbled together a half assed arena deal that looks like swiss cheese?

      • art thiel

        Which city is the incumbent?

        • Billy bob

          Seattle was the incumbent once, so was Vancouver, charlotte, etc

          • bugzapper

            So was Greg Nickels.

  • Sean23

    Art, don’t you think there is a chance this is just the Maloof’s saying put up or shut up? If anything it increases Seattle’s chances. I still don’t see how they can so no to Hansen. I’m to the point that all of the NBA’s shenanigans have made me lose interest. I’m really only following for the sure comedy of the thing. If Hansen is denied, I hope we never have to hear about the NBA again and Hansen and Ballmer sue and cause them pain.

  • Tim

    Wow. Thanks for the great insight Art. I no longer have hopes for this, and if the offer to Hansen’s group is denied, the NBA is dead to me.

  • Tim

    For the record, I haven’t watched a game anyway since the Sonics left.

    • Neither I

    • jafabian

      The NBA still televises games?

  • Michael Kaiser

    In fact, Hansen and Balmer blew this from the beginning, which is perhaps understandable when one considers what Microsoft has done under Balmer and that they they both are, essentially, variations of Paul Allen–although Balmer does have more of a claim to earning what he has obtained–in that more than anything, including business acumen, they were the beneficiaries of wealth created by a stock explosion completely beyond any sort of value they really created, although I certainly will give them what they did to put themselves in that position.
    What they should have done, instead of trying to take the easy way out and also screw another city (memories of “victimhood” certainly fade fast), is have gotten their arena off the ground and THEN go the NBA and beg for an expansion franchise. In fact, the only good thing that may come out of their bungled efforts, and this clearly was not their main intent, is that they may get the NBA to give Seattle an expansion franchise at some point in the future.

    • KR

      So you think they should have completely skipped out on the opportunity to acquire the Kings, when their main objective is to purchase an NBA team? You seem to have a lot of negative things to say about Balmer and Hansen, yet you seem to lack a basic understanding of business, or an understanding of sports franchises. The fact that you think it’s better to “beg” for an expansion franchise, completely neglected to consider that the NBA and Stern have repeatedly sworn off new expansion, somewhat proves my point.

      The Kings are currently the BEST and ONLY option Seattle has at acquiring a team at this point.

    • billy bob

      they’ve haven’t gotten the arena off the ground you clown? Are you paying attention? The arena was approved by both Councils twice. Pay attention before spouting off.

  • Michael Kaiser

    Although the price they now will have to pay for an expansion franchise will of course be exponentially larger because of their bungled efforts.

  • disqus_mvSsv2KTeH

    Seattle cant wait, we still have elections coming up
    Mike and Dow are not guaranteed to keep their positions, if we have different council members as well, the arena may not even be supported, this is really our last chance for the NBA to return to Seattle
    if you say Seattle can wait, please ask any of the local small businesses that are in need of any economic engine increase
    Look what happened to queen Anne, they are not the same without the Sonics
    Strongly disagree with your statement “seattle can wait”

    • art thiel

      Hansen told everyone at the outset of this process that it may take five to seven years. He brought up expansion in a Crosscut interview in October, before he signed the PSA with the Maloofs. He is not going away. The election isn’t until November (August primary) and this will be resolved. No politician is going to lose or win a job over the arena issue.

  • Interesting take. I also wonder if this is about making sure that Sacramento is seen as a legitimate relocation threat for future teams if the Seattle deal is indeed approved. The Maloofs play along to keep the BOG happy and expedite the process.

  • John

    Art knows zero about what is going on. He’s writing stories like it 2008. Follow Chris Daniels and Bob Condotta to be up to date on the news

    • Tian Biao

      Art knows zero? What, are you new in town or something? You may not like what he says, or how he says it, but he absolutely knows what’s happening. Tell yourselves whatever it takes to make yourselves feel better, but from now on, please, leave the silly personal invective at home. Oh, and what – Hansen made a bid on the Kings in 2008? Dude, do us all a favor and back away from the keyboard.

      PS for the record I agree with Art: as long as Hansen and the potential Seattle arena are still out there unrequited, the civic extortions and franchise appreciations can continue in other markets, and that’s what the league loves more than anything.

    • art thiel

      Then what are you doing here, John? Chris and Bob do good work, and are reporting on many similar things. I have more freedom than they do to connect dots.

      • mckoosa

        Art is the man….he remembers Bob Hopkins, Bruce Seals and Mike Green even!….An old school Veteran who still gotz it!…Thx for your work Big Man!

      • billybob

        Except you connect the dots the same predictable fashion every time. If Seattle gets screwed again, your slobberfest might flood downtown.

        • art thiel

          That’s because it’s where the dots lead.

          • Billy bob

            Based on your opinion

  • Seattle native

    Wow! That was some tabloid style crap of an article.

    • art thiel

      That’s a new one. But I forgot to mention the Kardashians or Tiger Woods love life. But I did get in Arnold. Sorry if that offended you.

  • Seattle native

    Im not saying the article far off, but does the author always sound like Jerry Springer or trashy tabloids??

  • Dave Littleton

    Bottom line : Sac and KJ are too late. Chris Hansen has worked on this for two and a half years,and stands ready. Frankly, if I was the NBA, I would be concerned about the last minute attempts to put together the Sac deal, such as KJ and CO have done….unstable. The fair solution is to relocate the Kings, and notify KJ and CO that if they fulfill the requirements set forth, they may have an expansion team at that time…but NOT until all is in place. Final thought: where would the Sac group be if Hanson had not made the deal with Maloofs back in January? Answer: no further than they were in January.

    • ur dumb if u think its too late lol Seattle is not getting a team so go away lol

    • You’d think they’d be concerned about how frazzled the state of the Sactown effort is, but I think what Art is saying is correct – they have bigger goals than stable ownership and a legitimate arena proposal. I don’t care anyway, hope Sac keeps their team.

  • Billy bob

    In predictable fashion, this would be arts take on this bit of news.

    • art thiel

      What is it that you don’t want to hear, Bill? That Stern would rather keep Kings in Sacto if he can? That’s his preference. Said it all along. It’s a shame for Seattle, but I think you want me to make something up that will make you feel better.

      • Billy bob

        Of course u claimed ballmer might back out too due to microsofts concern about their image. Haven’t seen that one happen, art.

  • Will

    I understand it, suckers are born every second. Despite that, can you explain the moth-like fascination with the NBA? The flame always kills the moth so why are cities and fans so eager for NBA flimflammery and shakedowns?

    • art thiel

      It’s a passion, Will. Some people collect Hummels. Some people watch “Hoarders.” Some people teach hygiene to kids in Africa. I can’t explain ’em, I just know there’s many varieties of passion

  • jafabian

    Looks like some Kings fans are joining The more the merrier!

    Overall the Hansen group has the more secure, more stable offer for the Kings. However despite everything else Stern still comes across as though he remembers the acrimonious discussions he had with Seattle’s leadership in 2008 and that they play a role in his decisions regarding the Kings even though no one from that time is involved. If in some way the Kings stay in Sacramento despite the fact that the proposed Kings ownership group’s proposal is based on vision and ideas if the Kings or an expansion team aren’t in Seattle this fall then Chris Hansen will have to take a page from Slade Gorton and prepare to sue the NBA. And the NBA doesn’t want that at all.

    Is it me or does Stern seem to have an 80’s style of business management a la Gordon Gekko?

  • seattlenative57

    Art Thiel is one of the most respected and accomplished sportswriters in these parts. Trust me, this piece includes sources inside the NBA with direct access to all parties involved including Art’s access to these people. The story is not just mere speculation but is is a combination of behind-the-scenes machinations along with knowledgeable assessments of each parties agenda. I trust Art’s judgment on these matters and find it entirely believable that Seattle is being played against the interests in Sacramento. What I do not believe is that neither Hansen nor Balmer is going away. These are successful business people who’ve been in tougher fights than this. I am confident that Hansen et al are working behind-the-scene to optimize a favorable outcome. This will not be an easy decision for the NBA, and it shouldn’t be. I don’t suppose to know the final outcome, but I am certain it will accommodate Hansen one way or another. He has done too much to be summarily dismissed without either approving relocation or promising a future franchise deal. Whether that future deal is another team relocation or expansion doesn’t matter, the NBA owes Hansen one or the other.

  • maqman

    “The needy will do anything to avoid getting shot.” They ain’t the only ones.

  • maoling

    Thanks for another great column, Art. I was shocked to discover the NBA actually has by-laws designed to prevent graft and collusion by ownership. Who knew?

  • Gary

    Love the picture of Stern! That trust me, would I lie to you look and he is doing just that while slipping a knife between your ribs. Why is everyone so anxious to crawl back in bed with this guy and their broken system, Bennett on the recommendation panel…………….sheesh!!!!
    My bet, they stay in Sac town like they should, they do not deserve to lose their team either.

  • bugzapper

    Every time I see Stern’s smarmy, duplicitous face I just want to punch him in the mouth. Repeatedly. Then I want to stick curare-tipped acupuncture pins in him. Then I want to tie him to the back of a 4-wheeler and drag him through piles of pig dung. Repeatedly. Then I want those tentacled machines from “The Matrix” to rip his skull open and see if there’s anything inside besides pure evil. But mostly I want to dump his naked body in a remote corner of Afghanistan, with no food, water or means to phone home.

    Does that make me a bad person?

    • Gary


    • art thiel

      Give the guy a break. As recently as 1995 he said KeyArena was a state of the art facility.

  • Great article Art. Might wanna edit real quick to say This business of saving the NBA Kings . . .

  • Roooosevelt

    Stalking Horse.