Chris Hansen was not grandstanding when he said he had numerous options to get the Kings from Sacramento. The latest maneuver Saturday in this unprecdented saga has the Maloof family refusing to sell to Sacramento bidders if relocation is denied, then operating the team after selling Hansen a 20 percent share for $125 million.
The “backup” tactic, first reported by ESPN.com quoting two anonymous sources, would happen only if NBA owners at a meeting Wednesday fail to allow the sale to Hansen and primary partner Steve Ballmer.
The idea is to put pressure on the Sacramento bidders to deliver on their proposed downtown arena plan, which has some NBA owners worried because of its incompleteness. But the proposed 20 percent purchase by Hansen also must be approved by NBA owners, who know clearly that his agenda is to move the club to Seattle.
The NBA would not be happy to see the cash-strapped Maloofs continue to run the Kings, but cannot force the family to sell to anyone.
In addition, the sources said Hansen’s revised tactics include paying a $115 million relocation fee to the NBA. When the Sonics moved to Oklahoma City in 2008, owner Clay Bennett paid a $30 million fee.
The latest development follows Friday’s surprise move in which Hansen upgraded his offer to value the Kings at $625 million with an additional $75 million. The Maloofs control 65 percent, meaning they would gross $406 million on the sale.
The ESPN story says the turn of events will cause the relocation committee to reconvene ahead of the previously scheduled meeting Wednesday in Dallas. The committee two weeks earlier was said to have voted 7-0 to deny relocation, but a source told Sportspress Northwest that the actual vote was 4-3, then was pushed to make it unanimous.
The hyper-aggressive cash plays by Hansen appear to be at least forcing some rethinking. The earlier vote seemed to signal success for a counteroffer led by Silicon Valley tech billionaire Vivek Ranadive, a minority owner in the Golden State Warriors. But even the project’s biggest proponent, Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson, warned against “dancing” because the vote was only a recommendation, not the final word from the NBA.
The counteroffer includes $258 million for the arena with the city’s parking-fee revenues, which is generating some opposition among local citizens, including an effort to gather signatures to put the city council’s approval of the deal up to a public vote.
The Maloofs have yet to agree to any deal with the Ranadive group, or to the new arena proposal. The Maloofs walked away from a similar area deal that they announced with NBA Commissioner David Stern weeks earlier. With Hansen and Ballmer behind them as minority partners, the arena proposal would grow complex with the Maloofs remaining in charge.
The Sacramento Bee reported Saturday night that two sources close to the Ranadive group say they are unmoved by latest moves by Hansen and the Maloofs.
“Doesn’t change our approach,” one source said. There are no plans to increase the offer. “Sacramento has made their bid and is comfortable where they are,” he said.