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January 12, 2013 at 10:52 AM

Further complications in Sacramento Kings’ move to Seattle

Two potential new complications emerged Saturday in the possible sale of the Sacramento Kings to a group that would relocate them to Seattle.

One was reported Saturday afternoon in the Sacramento Bee about a group of people eager to buy the team and build a $400 million arena on the site of a troubled shopping center in Sacramento. The other was related to the current owners wanting to retain a voice in how the team is run.

The local group’s plans were described in the Sacramento Bee as a “stunning new twist.”

The Seattle Times reported on Thursday that the owners of the team, the Maloof family, desired to not only keep a small percentage of a stake of the team but also wanted to retain an active role in the management of the franchise.

A report from longtime NBA beat writer Ric Bucher on Saturday stated that the Maloofs want so much to retain a role in the team, that they are using as leverage “a threat to take the sweetheart deal still waiting for them in Orange County and, should the other owners not approve the deal out of allegiance to Dr. (Jerry) Buss (the owner of the Los Angeles Lakers) and the Lakers, take them to court with an anti-trust suit.’’

That, Bucher wrote, “is far messier than anybody wants, Maloofs included, I suspect, but I also can’t see anyone buying the team and still giving the Maloofs any sort of say.’’

The NBA has a March 1 deadline to apply for relocation. A group led by Chris Hansen and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is attempting to buy the team and move it to Seattle to play at KeyArena for two seasons, beginning next year, while a new arena in the SoDo District is constructed.

Bucher, a former ESPN NBA analyst who now is a radio talk-show host and basketball analyst in the Bay Area, wrote that the pending deadline “might be the biggest motivator in all of this.’’

The Maloof family has owned the Kings in Sacramento since 1998. Brothers Joe and Gavin have been particularly involved in the day-to-day operations of the team.

Since 2006, they have been attempting to either get a new arena built in Sacramento or move the team. A planned move to Anaheim in 2011 was scuttled at the last  minute, due in part to an impassioned plea by Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson to NBA commissioner David Stern to give the city more time.

An apparent agreement on a new arena in Sacramento last year was killed by the Maloofs at the final  minute, leaving the team’s future in limbo. The Maloofs had stated consistently they were not interested  in selling the team. But reports emerged this week of negotiations between Hansen’s group and the Maloofs. One story on Friday characterized it as a done deal, saying Hansen’s group had agreed to purchase the team for $525 million, which would be the most ever paid for an NBA franchise.

But several reports since then, including Bucher’s, have indicated that complications remain.

After reports emerged Wednesday of talks between Hansen’s group and the Maloofs, Johnson stated he would lead efforts to find local buyers who would keep the team in Sacramento. Various media reports Friday identified two potential buyers — Mark Mastrov, the founder of 24-Hour Fitness, and Dale Carlsen, of Sleep Train Mattress Centers Inc. Saturday, a third entity emerged to keep the team in Sacramento.

The NBA has offered no comment on any of the rumors. Hansen’s group has also declined comment, as have the Maloofs, other than to issue a statement that they will not comment on rumors.

Stern has long been thought to want to keep a team in Sacramento, in  part due to the efforts of Johnson, a Sacramento native who was a three-time NBA All-Star in a career that lasted from 1987-2000.

Stern, though, has also been  reported to want to return a team to Seattle before he retires in February 2014.

Hansen has a deal with the City of Seattle and King County to build a new arena in Sodo once he and his investment group secure a team.

Plans to build a $490 million arena were approved by the City Council and the King County Council last October.

Seattle has been without an NBA team since 2008 when the Seattle Super Sonics were relocated to Oklahoma City by new owner Clay Bennett.

Hansen has spent the last year laying the ground work for an arena deal and attempting to buy a team to move to Seattle.


Comments | More in General news, Sports | Topics: Chris Hansen, Kevin Johsnon, Maloof family


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