A committee of NBA owners has voted unanimously to deny the relocation of the Sacramento Kings to Seattle, seemingly dashing the hopes of investor Chris Hansen and an entire region.
"The NBA announced today that the league's Relocation Committee has unanimously recommended that the NBA Board of Governors deny the application of the Sacramento Kings to relocate to Seattle. The Board will convene during the week of May 13 to vote on this matter," said the league in a statement.
All of the league's owners are required to wait seven business days after the committee issues its official report before they can cast their official ballot. But the vote by the seven owners on the panel means the deal is all but officially dead.
"That's what I'm talking about SACRAMENTO!!!!! WE DID IT!!!!!," Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson said on Twitter moments after the announcement.
The vote would nullify an agreement between Hansen and the Maloof family to buy 65 percent of the Kings for $341 million, with a total valuation of $525 million. Hansen had also reached agreement with Seattle and King County to build a new $490 million arena in the Sodo neighborhood, contingent on landing an NBA team.
Sacramento countered with a furious effort over the last few months that saw the city put together a deep pocketed team of investors to make a counterbid, along with a $441 million deal for a new downtown arena, funded in part by $258 million in public financing.
Hansen issued a statement late Monday, insisting "we have numerous options at our disposal and have absolutely no plans to give up. When we started this process everyone thought it was impossible. While this represents yet another obstacle to achieving our goal, I just wanted to reassure all of you that we have numerous options at our disposal and have absolutely no plans to give up. Impossible is nothing but a state of mind."
Hansen said in the statement his team would continue pushing the NBA to approve his purchase of the Kings and relocation
"As you are all well aware, we have a binding transaction to purchase the Kings for what would be a record price for an NBA franchise, have one of the best ownership groups ever assembled to purchase a professional sports team in the US, have clearly demonstrated that we have a much more solid Arena plan, have offered a much higher price than the yet to be finalized Sacramento Group, and have placed all of the funds to close the transaction into escrow. As such, we plan to unequivocally state our case for both relocation and our plan to move forward with the transaction to the league and owners at the upcoming Board of Governor's Meeting in Mid-May," he said.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who partnered with Hansen on the bid and made an impassioned presentation to NBA owners several weeks ago, was "incredibly emotional" Mitch Levy of KJR radio reported on Twitter after speaking with Ballmer following the announcement.
"Ballmer displayed zero optimism expansion will be offered. Said that he just doesn't think the NBA will share the revenue pie w/more teams," Levy reported.
"Ballmer told me that he can't imagine that the city of Seattle will ever have a stronger case and a better situation to acquire a team," he added in a subsequent tweet.
Ballmer reportedly said he will confer with Hansen about potential next steps, and will remain in contact with the NBA.
A spokesman for Hansen said he would not comment Monday.
"It certainly took the wind out of my sails and knocked me for a loop," said longtime NBA announcer Kevin Calabro, the former play-by-play voice of the Seattle Sonics in an interview with 710 ESPN Seattle.
Calabro said he was most shocked the vote was unanimous.
"I don't think there can be any flaws in the Seattle plan," Calabro said of his mystery at the decision. "What little we know of the Sacramento deal, there seemed to be several part of that that were tentative."
"I want to take my hat off to Seattle. You're a great city, had a great proposal, unbelievable fans & no doubt deserve a team in the future," Johnson tweeted.
NBA Commissioner David Stern said while Seattle's bid was "very strong", there's some benefit that should be given to a city that has supported us for so long and has stepped up to contribute to building a new building as well."
Stern also said expansion was not on the table right now and didn't make sense for the league until it negotiates new TV deals over the next few years.
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn issued a brief statement following the announcement:
"I'm proud of how Sonics fans have rallied together to help Seattle get a team. We're going to stay focused on our job: making sure Seattle remains in a position to get a team when the opportunity presents itself," McGinn said.
"I can't imagine how the fans in Seattle are feeling now," Calabro said.
The ownership group voting against relocation was led by Clay Bennett of the Oklahoma City Thunder, who purchased the Sonics from Howard Schultz and his investment group and moved the team from Seattle.
"They've managed to pull together with smoke and mirrors, an arena package that apparently the NBA thinks is viable," said Steve Pyeatt, the founder of Save Our Sonics." Now that the NBA has pulled the rug out from under the Seattle bid, Pyeatt thinks the city deserves some consideration. "I'm thinking that they've got to some way work with Hansen and come up with a solution for Seattle or they're going to have a nightmare on their hands."
King Count Executive Dow Constantine said in a statement he was "disappointed, but undeterred in our quest to bring NBA basketball back to the Pacific Northwest. Today's decision doesn't mean this effort is over."
"From what I saw at the presentation in New York, Chris Hansen and his team have made the superior offer and the best pure business case for the NBA to return to Seattle. We have a documented fan and business base ready to step forward when the time comes. We are patient, but determined," he said.
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