BY Art Thiel 07:03PM 04/19/2013

Maloofs make clear they want Seattle deal

The Maloof family that owns the Kings wrote via letter Friday to the NBA that the Sacramento offer was a “significant distance” of the Seattle offer from Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer, yet Commissioner David Stern reiterated that he would give more rope to the bidders from Sacramento.

At a press conference in New York following the Board of Governors meeting, Stern basically agreed with the Maloofs by saying the offer was “80 percent” of the Seattle offer, but also said he expected the offer to match perhaps as soon as over the weekend.

They’re in the same ballpark,” he said, “with respect to the net result to the selling family.”

Asked by KING5’s Chris Daniels what the hold-up was, given the Maloofs’ desires and Stern’s positive words about the quality offer from Seattle, Stern grew testy.

“At the end of the day the (finance/relocation) committee, which is going to meet next week, will have to take a vote and decide what to do,” he said. “So I don’t understand, not only your question, but where it would come from.”

It comes from a growing belief in Seattle that each day represents more time for the Sacramento group to provide a complete match. But the unprecedented nature of this bidding battle between two cities for a free-agent franchise apparently has no shape or form.

“It’s the only time in the last 37 – 47 years – that I haven’t known the answer,” Stern said, mocking his lengthy tenure as well as his legendary self-righteousness, then turning serious. “No, but this is one that’s just been quite difficult and confusing for the owners as well. And we’ve been working very hard to give it a structure at their direction.”

A point of contention appears to be a requirement by Sacramento that the Maloofs abandon the signed purchase and sale agreement before the counteroffer becomes binding. Business law prevents the seller from holding two offers for the same item when an exclusive negotiating window exists.

The Maloofs do not want to abandon the Hansen offer because, according to their letter, released to the Associated Press few minutes before Stern’s press conference, it would give “leverage to aggressively renegotiate terms in the event the existing agreement is terminated,” and well as be subject to a breach of contract suit. The Maloofs called the offer a “staggering and ultimately unacceptable execution risk.”

Hansen also could be in a position to sue the Sacramento bidders for tortious interference.

The legal consequences of a decision are another dimension to what Stern called a “wrenching” decision that occupied two hours of Friday’s meeting, and will require a reconvening of the committee next week. The committee is expected to forward a recommendation to the BOG, which by league rules mandate must be considered for seven days. So the likely vote date is now estimated to be the week of May 6.

The Maloofs’ letter says that the Sacramento group did match the initial Seattle offer of a total franchise valuation of $525 million. Hansen agreed to buy 65 percent of the team for $341 million. But apparently the Sacramento offer does not match Hansen’s $30 million nonrefundable deposit, nor the additional $25 million Hansen added to the valuation a week ago.

Stern took issue with the Maloofs’ contention, saying, “There is a down payment. It is binding.” Then he added: It”s not as complete as it probably is going to be by the close of business today or tomorrow.”

Explaining the process, Stern said, “The owners are deliberating quite conservatively and deliberately because each team owns its team in its market, and that is why, when a team wants to move, it becomes the province of the board, rather than ownership.

“That’s why we have this constitutional provision which has this rather labor-intensive process that is sort of weighing down on all of us as we go down the checklist.”

Beyond matching offers, Stern mentioned the other big issue: “Of course, we’re most concerned about the critical path of arenas getting built.”

Asked if expansion remains a non-starter, he paused, then said, “I don’t want to say a complete non-starter. If the question is: Was there any discussion of expansion? The answer is no.

“I haven’t heard (expansion) in any shape or form, particularly when we don’t know at this time what the next television network contract would be,” referring to the expiration of the TV contracts at the end of the  2015-16 season.

One new development was that Stern said “the first order of the day” when the owners would vote will be about relocation, which requires a simply majority of 16. That could be a tactic that would allow the NBA to avert by procedural maneuver the direct insult of the second vote — telling Hansen his money was no good.

Stern did acknowledge the quality of Hansen’s effort.

“What makes this particularly difficult . . . is the Seattle group has done a lot of work,” he said. “It’s well-funded. It’s got spectacular businessmen who support the community behind it, and the Sacramento group has a very strong base of economic support as well.”


  • Michael Kaiser

    Art’s article says, “Hansen also could be in a position to sue the Sacramento bidders for tortious interference.” HANSEN alleging interference? That is righteous. And Hansen is not going to sue anyone when he loses. He wants to keep the door open for another opportunity.

    • art thiel

      Of course there’s grounds for interference if Sactown’s offer mandates the Maloofs drop the Hansen offer in an exclusive window. What are you thinking? Now he may choose not to sue, but that’s a negotiation because of the threat.

  • fairmont

    The Seattle Mariners are the result of a lawsuit. Suing makes the world go round. I would absolutely love a lawsuit against the NBA, wouldn’t it be wonderful! Maloofs and Hansen sue the NBA for breach, bliss!

    • art thiel

      You’re right about the suit against the Pilots. But the breach was so obvious that the American League sued for peace and gave Seattle the Mariners. Now you may think that was a lousy settlement, but that’s another topic . . .

  • Michael Kaiser

    And on a completely different topic, I just listened to your radio interview about the Seahawks. You can see I have no life. But what is this “They should have AT LEAST went to the Conference Championship.” I do not know where you are getting that from except perhaps some homer-type perspective. Let us deal with what actually happened. Not speculative should have, could have, would have . . . . The reality is that the Seahawks got completely blown out in the Divisional Playoff. They managed to make a game of it in the end, but the overriding truth is that not only did they lose, but they also got blown out from the get-go. I do agree, however, that they probably do have a chance this year to go to the Super Bowl. But, still, this being Seattle and its glorious sports tradition of, well, nothing really, I also would not at all be surprised if when all is said and done they do even worse this year. We will see. The 49’s are going to be better as well.

    • art thiel

      Thanks for the key admission, Michael, about your life.

      I assume you heard the 1090 AM interview at 3p. I frankly don’t remember saying that, mostly because I don’t believe it, and if I did, I would have said “at least gone” instead of “at least went.” I believe I still have a small grasp on the language.

      To your point: Doesn’t matter how much they fell behind early. They caught up late. Thousands of football games are decided that way, and no asterisks are allowed. All 60 minutes count, including the final half-minute that the Seahawks blew.

      And the fact that you wouldn’t be surprised that they do “even” worse than 11-5 . . . well, Michael, I don’t have words for that forecast pre-draft.

  • Hammtime

    “…So I don’t understand, not only your question, but where it would come from.”

    Yeah…sure ya don’t Mr. Stern. What an ego. Three weeks until Stern kicks Seattle in the teeth.
    Stern, you’re a sleazy little man.

    • art thiel

      Stern loves to fake umbrage so he can put down reporters. It used to be fun to joust with him. I wished Hansen hadn’t let him off the hook.

  • SeattleNative57

    No, Hansen is not going to sue the NBA over this process or decision. If he loses, he waits for the next weakest link to purchase.

    • art thiel

      That is likely, but he can threaten to sue the Maloofs for breach of contract and threaten to sue the Sactown group for tortious interference.

      • Eric K

        I think the more likely scenario is the Maloof’s suing the NBA if they think they can make a case that the league forced them to take a lesser offer from Sacramento.

        Not like they care about burning bridges

  • jafabian

    The NBA doesn’t want the Maloofs around anymore. Not after they backed out of Sacramento’s more than fair proposal last year. And the Maloofs don’t want to be a part of the NBA anymore due to their poor economics. So can the NBA force the Maloofs to accept a lower bid? And would owners support that? I doubt it because when they want out they don’t want to end up losing money just to get out of the league. So there’s a possible point for Hansen’s group.

    When all is said and done I question if Sterno is making Sacramento jump through hoops simply so he can say that he gave them a fair shot but ultimately the Seattle bid was stronger. He’s shown time and again how his ego can in some form of manner influence what he says and does. The only argument he and the head of the Relocation Committee (what’s his name?) can make is that it isn’t in the NBA’s best interest to move a team and if that’s their position then they’re hypocrites and NBA owners will call them on that. Mark Cuban (God bless him) will be all over that. Paul Allen will not support denying Hansen’s bid. I can picture Hansen working with Wally Walker to get other NBA owners to support them. You can’t tell me that Wally hasn’t touched base with Rick Welts and possibly Rod Thorn by now. George Karl wants the NBA back in Seattle. There’s potential for the owners to be divided on this and I’m sure Sterno doesn’t want to retire like that for his legacy.

    I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a group swoop in like KJ’s group has and counterbid during the process of changing ownerhship of a sport franchise. If Sterno allowed that could have happened when Howard Schultz bailed on Seattle and the minority owners made some noise about putting together a new group but Sterno recognized that and quelched it quickly. Yet here he’s been encouraging it. This is why Sterno hates Chris Daniels. He makes him face the music on this stuff. The only person Sterno hates more is Jim Rhome and I love watching those two catfight one another.

    IF expansion is the solution for Seattle I don’t think Hansen would accept that quietly. He’d argue he’s done everything the NBA has asked and more and say “What’s in it for me?” And rightfully so. Whether it be a reduced or waiving the expansion entry fee or in the form of extra draft picks (doubtful but I can dream) or a higher salary cap (again, dreaming) he needs to be compensated if he’s told to wait 2-3 years. However if Sacramento is forced to wait it could be a situation similar to what Charlotte has with the Bobcats where the apathy has been palpable from the get-go, poor management not withstanding. That’s why I’m questioning if when all is said and done is all this for a show? Is Sterno and to a Clay-Clay, the Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine of pro sports, doing all this for a show? One last go-around together in the limelight so they can look like the good guys?

  • PokeyPuffy

    This has become an issue that Basketball almost has nothing to do with! I can’t believe i’m following it so closely.

    Art, aside from Stern, what do you make of the BOG? Are they an enlightened group who is looking after their collective interests, or are they simply a bunch of petty teenage girls when it comes to letting someone into their ranks? Would the BOG be intimidated by the pedigree of our owners? Or would they see it as an upside?

    Cuban seems to be taking the longer view but others including Paul Allen seem to be stepping away rhetorically. What about Bennett? would he always vote against a seattle contingent just for fear of retribution? Lotsa questions I know but i’m curious