BY SPNW Staff 03:35PM 04/30/2013

Maloofs have a deal, but NBA runs the game

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, 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.


  • A Sonic Fan

    Has anyone considered that maybe the NBA owners don’t like the arena deal Chris Hanson has reached with the City of Seattle and King County? The agreement requires both public agencies to provide bonding capacity to finance and subsequently build the arena, not direct public spending. The NBA owners may see this as a threat to their future plans to build future arenas with direct public spending (think of Mr. Clay Bennett’s proposal to Washington State to build a new arena, back in 2007/2008 or the apparent arena deal in Sacramento). The next NBA owner who wants to tap directly into the public coffers to pay for their new arena, may be denied because local elected officials will point to the Seattle arena deal. In other words, the NBA owners may not want to start a precedence that could
    cut off their future access to the public coffers.

    • Michael Kaiser

      Another aspect of the arena deal is the location, which the Seattle Times–a joke of a paper, but whatever–is now calling today in an editorial a poor choice from the start, which I also said. Look to Bellevue. Let Hanson eat his manipulative little scheme.

      • art thiel

        The Times’ view is because of its relationship with the Mariners owners.

        I’ve always said that location is the weakest part of Hansen’s pitch. But that’s what the EIS is for. Although I’m surprised everyone just doesn’t take your word — or my word — for such things. Imagine committing original research.

        • Eric K

          It seems pretty obvious from his posts that Michael is a shill for the Bellevue arena plan I just ignore everything he says

    • art thiel

      I wrote after Hansen’s arena proposal was disclosed that the amount of private contribution is setting a high standard for subsequent ownerships building in other markets. Some of his potential lodge brothers may be dubious.

      On the other hand, you may have heard that municipal and state govts are sinking in debt. From the Sac Bee today:

      Having the privates pay most of the freight is probably the way it’s going to be. The Sactown offer is a throwback that diverts future parking revs that Sac could use elsewhere, a lot of people in that town are aware and don’t like it.

  • Leon Russell

    “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.”

    “(the Seattle investors having warned the NBA in great detail that the downtown site [in Sacramento] promises to be a non-starter),”

    To me, the above quotes illustrate the very poor judgment of Hansen. It’s none of Hansen’s business what the Sacramento group’s plans are. It is also not Hansen’s job to critique the Sacramento plan for the NBA board. That is like saying Hansen does not think the NBA owners are smart enough to evaluate the Sacramento proposal for themselves, so Hansen will evaluate the Sacramento proposal for the NBA. What a jerk.

    Hansen should have just presented his proposal, and allowed Sacramento to present their proposal. By criticizing the Sacramento proposal, Hansen comes off as a jerk and a buffoon, who thinks HE should be making the choice between the two proposals, instead of the NBA owners who were listening to the proposals.


    • Michael Kaiser

      Oh, come on! Don’t you realize that Seattle folks are now the most intelligent, enlightened folks on the planet? Seattle folks have the right to dissect anything, and often do.

      • art thiel

        How about Bellevue folks, Michael? Tacoma? San Francisco? Your hometown? Generalizations. You demean your argument, if you had one.

    • Kevin Ki

      Leon Russell your statement is idiotic! Chris Hansen has handled himself with class this whole time, when Kevin Johnson was always holding press conferences and puffing his chest out on how he has a plan to keep the team in Sacramento, Chris Hansen kept his mouth shut by the request of the NBA. So you have no merit in your thread. He has a binding agreement with the Maloofs to purchase the team and he did everything the right way. Yet David Stern gives Sacramento numerous opportunities to come up with a plan, and he tells the relocation committee to deny the relocation.

      Please your ignorant statement shows you how little you know about this situation and how Seattle got screwed again by David Stern and Clay Bennet!

      • Leon Russell

        Are you one of the little kids who put your name on the ticket “waiting list”?

        • Kevin Ki

          Wow, is that the best you can come up with Leon…calling people little kids…Art how about this guy taking the high road huh?

      • art thiel

        None of us were in the rooms during the presentations, so we don’t know for sure what high or low roads were taken by either party, nor whether the owners were put off or expecting it.

    • art thiel

      You’ve taken the high road, Leon, and I commend you. But I’m told that both parties in their private presentations before owners criticized the other side’s bids. I suspect that it’s part and parcel of high-stakes business bidding, and their audience of owners I suspect have done the similar things in their businesses.

      Speaking of idealism, what do you think of Stern’s March 9 comments publicly scolding the Sactown bidders in order to produce a more from them competitive bid? My colleague Steve Rudman lays out Stern’s positions and wonders why he inserted himself publicly into a process that in February he promised to stay out of.

      If you’re looking for high-minded principles, I’d avert your eyes from this drama.


      • Leon Russell

        I think telling Sacramento what they had to do to keep their team was what you would expect from an NBA commissioner.
        I don’t think that explaining to the committee perceived problems with Sacramento’s offer, as if the owners were not smart enough to do that analysis themselves, was a particularly deft move by Hansen.

  • Michael Kaiser

    At this point going forward there is only one party that runs the risk of being accused of interference. And it is not the Sacramento group.

    • art thiel


      • jafabian

        Republican? Democrat? Tea?

  • jafabian

    It’s interesting how the NBA has worked so hard to keep the Kings in Sacramento and the Hornets/Pelicans in New Orleans but did the exact opposite for the Sonics and Grizzlies in their original cities. There’s little if any accountability among the NBA and it’s owners when it comes to owning up to their actions. It’s possible the NBA and Sterno still sting from the passing of Initiative 91 but 1) It passed due to the self-centered actions of the NBA itself and 2) it’s a non-issue to the Hansen group. If the NBA can look the other way at the shaky footing of the Sacramento bid it can certainly look the other way on I-91 and it would be largely the Hansen group’s problem if it indeed becomes one.

    The Hansen group can always go thru with the purchase anyways and see what can be worked out while in Sacramento. If they do at some point the NBA would have to let them relocate as they did with Clay-Clay’s situation. The NBA doesn’t want this to go legal and they’ve put Hansen and his people in a very winnable scenario if it comes to that.

    Also, if they deny this bid Chris Hansen isn’t going away. The Bucks will become available sooner or later and later on the Jazz could have their own arena war.

  • no fool

    GET OFF YOUR KNEES and quit suckin on stern and the nba……GO GET A HOCKEY TEAM…….Should NEVER LET a nba team locate here…..You have become basketballs version of tampa bay/st Petersburg

  • PokeyPuffy

    I think Hansen/Balmer may be too slick for the NBA owners, as i’ve mentioned in these forums before. Being wildly successful in business is great, but best i can tell in the NBA, success at the ownership level is all about personal relationships. Which means a personal relationship with Stern.

    To this point: I’ve seen plenty of pictures of Bennett with Stern, but has anyone seen this coziness with Balmer or Hansen with Stern? We’ll know they’re getting closer to the end game when we do. Kiss the ring, flatter the boss in public, share physical space, say he is your mentor, your guiding light, this is the path to success.

    Somewhat related, one could say there is a mini culture war within the NBA leadership. Progressive thinkers like Cuban are on the margins, regressive extraction-economy red state sycophants like Bennett are at the center.