DALLAS — The NBA’s Board of Governors voted today to keep the Kings in Sacramento, denying a request for relocation to Seattle, NBA commissioner David Stern said in a press conference late Wednesday afternoon.
The vote came at the end of a roughly four-hour meeting here at the Hilton Anatole Hotel, and means that the NBA will not be returning to Seattle next season.
Stern said the question of ownership of the team was not settled today but could be in a day or so. The only options are for the Maloof family to keep it or sell it to a Sacramento group. Stern said the Seattle offer for the team “effectively ended” with today’s vote.
Stern said there are no immediate plans to reward a Seattle team but said expansion could be discussed after new TV deals are agreed upon. The NBA’s current deals run out after the 2015-16 season.
Stern said that while Seattle made a solid offer, that “the edge went to the incumbent” in keeping the team in Sacramento.
The decision came after each city made one last pitch to the Board of Governors, which consists of one voting member of each of the league’s 30 franchises. Sixteen owners needed to vote for relocation. Stern said the vote was 22-8 against relocation.
Seattle group that included Chris Hansen and former Sonics president and CEO Wally Walker went first. Also part of that group was two members of the current Sacramento ownership group — Gavin Maloof and Bob Hernreich. The Seattle presentation lasted about 45 minutes.
A Sacramento group that included mayor Kevin Johnson and the leader of the ownership contingent, Vivek Ranadive, went next and made a presentation that lasted a little bit longer. At about 3:25 local time, the owners reconvened to vote, finally emerging about 4:50 p.m. as news began to break that the Kings were staying.
Hansen led a group that reached an agreement in January to buy the Kings from the team’s current owners, the Maloof family, and then filed for relocation, hoping to begin playing in KeyArena for the 2013-14 season.
Hansen made an aggressive move for the team, including two increases, ultimately offering $406.25 million for 65 percent, a total valuation of $625 million that was the most ever bid for an NBA franchise.
Johnson, though, led an equally aggressive effort to keep the team in Sacramento – assembling an ownership group that made a bid that was said to be competitive to Seattle’s – as well as a plan for a new downtown arena.
NBA Commissioner David Stern had said his preference was to not relocate a team, and his support of Sacramento’s offer was likely a critical part of the team staying put.
Stern was seen as helping the Sacramento group revamp its ownership group – which is led by Vivek Ranadive, a co-owner of the Golden State Warriors – to get into position to make a bid that could keep the team. Johnson numerous times had said a key selling point of Sacramento’s bid was that local government had “stepped up” every time it had been asked in recent years, specifically in helping fund the arena plan. Sacramento’s plan for a $448 million arena includes $258 million in public money.
Stern has said that while expansion is “not a complete non-starter” in the long term, it is not being considered now, and there is no thought it is a serious immediate option.
And Hansen had targeted the Kings because they were seen as the team that might be the most vulnerable, with an aging and small arena, built in 1988, and an ownership group that had attempted previously to move the team.
One team that could become available is the Milwaukee Bucks, whose arena also dates to 1988 and where there is still not a firm plan for building a new one.
The league’s Relocation Committee voted 7-0 on April 29 to deny the right of the Kings to move.
After that vote, though, Hansen vowed that his fight was not over and he lobbed a couple more shots over the weekend, including an increase in the offer for a total of $406.25 million for 65 percent of the team, as well as offering a $4 million per team relocation fee (at total of $116 million), and making a backup agreement with the Maloofs to buy 20 percent of the team.
Hansen began the process of attempting to return the NBA to Seattle roughly three years ago when he began quietly buying up land in the Sodo District. Hansen first let the city of Seattle know about his plans in June 2011, and the first public notice came in December 2011.
Hansen, who grew up in the Rainier Valley, has said a seminal moment of his life came in 1979, when he was 11 years old and the Sonics won their only NBA championship. It still is the only championship for a Seattle team in one of the three major pro sports.
Hansen, now a hedge-fund manager who works in San Francisco, wasn’t in financial position to make a bid for the Sonics when they were bought in 2006 by Oklahoma City businessman Clay Bennett, who two years later hauled them to OKC.
There really wasn’t much being done, either by local governments or private investors, to return the NBA to Seattle until Hansen arrived on the scene.