The group bidding to keep the Kings in Sacramento, buoyed Monday by the recommended denial of relocation to Seattle, now must strike a deal to buy the franchise from its owners, the Maloof family, which has consistently insisted it be allowed to accept the $550 million offer from Chris Hansen’s Seattle group.
If the Board of Governors accepts the recommendation, which is considered likely, the prospective owners will have to offer a price the Maloofs deem acceptable, then have the transaction approved by the finance committee, which will be part of a BOG meeting scheduled for the week of May 13.
“We hope to be in a position at that point where our ownership group gets approved,” Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson told the Sacramento Bee. “That’s our end game.”
The Maloofs cannot be forced to accept the Sacramento deal, but operating the team for another year in Sacramento doesn’t seem like a good idea to them or the NBA. So unless the Hansen group wants to take the risk of suing the Sacramento investors for interference, the Maloofs will have little choice.
Hansen was vigorous in his refusal to accept the potential denial, writing on his website Monday night that he was “fully committed to seeing this transaction through.” Hansen added his team has “clearly demonstrated that we have a much more solid arena plan” and other assets superior to the Sacramento counteroffer.
Johnson said he didn’t blame Hansen for his aggressive statement.
“If I were them, I would keep fighting too,” Johnson said. “That’s been our story the last three or four years. I don’t look down or begrudge anybody who’s fighting for something they desperately want.
“(But) I think the message was very loud and very clear.”
The Maloofs apparently have yet to see a binding agreement to match the offer from Seattle. They think that they could end up with less money from the Sacramento group, which could use the excuse that the arena proposal will end up costing more money than the estimated $447 million presented to NBA owners in an April 3 meeting.
Writing in si.com, longtime NBA writer Ian Thomsen speculated that the NBA has taken a serious risk in betting on Sacramento.
“If the Maloofs are shortchanged and if the new ownership of the Kings struggles to build an arena as planned in downtown Sacramento (the Seattle investors having warned the NBA in great detail that the downtown site promises to be a non-starter), then this is going to go down as a highly controversial decision that was set forth by Stern,” he wrote. “At the same time, it should come as no major surprise that Sacramento will be keeping its team. Whatever Stern might have done to help strengthen the bid of local investors in Sacramento, it cannot be as risky as the investment he made three years ago to keep the franchise in New Orleans.”
He drew a comparison to the NBA purchase of the distressed New Orleans Hornets for $310 million in 2010, when the franchise was struggling in the post-Katrina economy. Making a franchise a ward of the NBA state was seen as a sign of weakness, not to mention a compromise to team operations.
But after the 2011 lockout produced a new collective bargaining agreement more favorable to owners, the team was sold to Tom Benson, owner of the NFL Saints, for $338 million. The transaction was considered an example of the NBA’s commitment to smaller markets and its growing reluctance to repeat the wrenching relocation episode in Seattle in 2008.
So, compounding the Seattle anguish from Monday is the irony that what happened to Seattle in 2008 is a primary reason to deny Seattle in 2013.