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Sacramento Kings watch: Mayor says still not time to announce major investors

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson says work continues, and he hopes to announce the deep-pocketed investors backing an effort to buy the NBA's Kings by next week. (AP image)

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson says he’s still not ready to announce the major equity partners who are expected to join the city in a counter offer to buy the Sacramento Kings and keep them in the California capital, and a new report raises serious questions about the deal to sell the NBA team to investor Chris Hansen and his Seattle group.

Johnson told reporters at his regular weekly news conference Tuesday morning the potential investors are “doing their due diligence,” and he now hopes to reveal their identities in the next week, despite stating last week he would announce them this week.

“I think we’re really close. This is not a negative by any means, it’s a complex deal,” Johnson said.

The Mayor reiterated any investment is especially complicated because it involves both the NBA team and partnering to build a new Sacramento arena.

Johnson said he hoped to have a counter offer in place at least several weeks before a March 1 deadline for teams to apply for relocation.

“This is about being quick but not hurried,” Johnson said.

Meantime, a new report says an examination of the original partnership documents between investors in the Kings seems to support the argument of minority owners that they have first right of refusal to match or top any offer for the Kings.

NBA insider Aaron Bruski with Pro Basketball Talk reports a 1992 agreement and 2003 addendum “specifically clarified any confusion regarding the Right of First Refusal, amongst other pending issues.”

According to Bruski, the agreement specifies a minority owner would have 30 days to notify the majority owners they plan to match the offer, then another 45 day window to complete a purchase.

The Maloof family and another partner own 65 percent of the franchise, while several other investors own the remaining shares. Further complicating matters is a 7 percent stake owned by bankrupt businessman Bob Cook, whose assets, including his share in the team, are currently being reviewed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

Bruski reports numerous sources have told him the Maloofs have not submitted any notice of a sales agreement with investor Chris Hansen and his Seattle group. But based on the original partnership agreement for the Kings, it’s looking more likely what was thought to be an easy deal to sell the team and move it to Seattle is increasingly complicated.

With the NBA offering Sacramento the opportunity to present a counter offer at the Board of Governors meeting in April, and potential legal challenges to a sale, it’s clear the matter won’t be resolved any time soon.

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