Following weeks of unconfirmed rumors and unnamed sources, the NBA has confirmed the proposed sale of the Sacramento Kings to Chris Hansen’s Seattle investment group.
On Monday morning, the NBA issued the following statement: “The NBA received an executed Purchase and Sale Agreement for the transfer of a controlling interest in the Sacramento Kings from the Maloof family to an investor group led by Christopher Hansen. The proposed transaction is subject to the approval of the NBA Board of Governors and has been referred to the Board’s committee process for review.”
“We have always appreciated and treasured our ownership of the Kings and have had a great admiration for the fans and our team members,” co-owner Gavin Maloof said on behalf of his family in a statement. “We would also like to thank Chris Hansen for his professionalism during our negotiation. Chris will be a great steward for the franchise.”
Hansen echoed praise when writing of the Maloof family in a statement on SonicsArena.com. He said the negotiations with the Maloof family were handled with the “utmost honor and professionalism.”
“We hope to continue their legacy and be great stewards of this NBA franchise in the coming years and decades,” Hansen wrote.
Hansen said he is not at liberty to discuss the terms of the transaction or the plans for the franchise because of the confidential nature of the agreement and NBA regulations regarding public comments during a pending transaction.
But, sources say Hansen’s group will buy 65 percent of the franchise for $525 million, move the team to Seattle and restore the SuperSonics name. The Maloofs will have no stake in the team.
The sale figure is a total valuation of the franchise, which includes relocation fees. Hansen’s group also is hoping to buy out other minority investors.
The Maloofs will receive a $30 million non-refundable deposit Feb. 1, according to the deal, one person said. They will still be allowed to receive other offers until the league approves the sale.
“This is an exciting day for our city and for Sonics fans everywhere,” Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn said in a statement. “I congratulate Chris Hansen and his investment team. While there is more work ahead, this is a major step toward bringing the Sonics home.”
Meanwhile, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson said last week he had received permission from NBA Commissioner David Stern to present a counteroffer to league owners from buyers who would keep the Kings in Sacramento.
Senior NBA.com writer Steve Aschburner tells Seattle’s Morning News the move to Seattle may not be a done deal yet.
“If I were Seattle I would not be spiking the basketball quite yet,” said Aschburner. “I’m happy for Seattle. I think it’s likely to happen. Everything seems to be pointed in that direction. But I would not refer to the Board of Governor’s thing as slam dunk.”
“[NBA Commissioner David] Stern has already said he would give Sacramento an opportunity to match an offer,” said Aschburner.
Johnson said in a statement late Sunday night that the city remains undeterred despite the agreement with the Seattle group.
“Sacramento has proven that it is a strong NBA market with a fan base that year in and year out has demonstrated a commitment to the Kings by selling out 19 of 27 seasons in a top 20 market and owning two of the longest sellout streaks in NBA history,” Johnson said.
“When it comes to keeping the team in our community, Sacramento is playing to win. In particular, we have been focused like a laser on identifying an ownership group that will both have the financial resources desired by the NBA and the vision to make the Kings the NBA equivalent of what the Green Bay Packers have been in the NFL.”
In a saga that has dragged on for nearly three years, Johnson and Sacramento appear to be facing their most daunting challenge yet.
NBA insider Rick Bucher told “The Kevin Calabro Show” that while there could still be a roadblock to a deal, “all the ducks are lined up” for the Kings to move to Seattle.
“The bottom line is that Sacramento has had the opportunity to make an offer for quite some time now and they haven’t found the money guy to do it,” Bucher said. “And now that you have the price set as high as it is it just simply doesn’t make sense any fiscal sense for anyone in a market like Sacramento to go out and drop $500 million plus and try to make it work in that market.”
“Nobody understands better than Seattle what means to lose a team,” said McGinn. “I understand why Kevin Johnson is working so hard to keep the team. If mayors had a vote, we’d probably vote for expansion.”
If the move to Seattle is approved, Hansen’s group plans to have the team play at least the next two seasons in KeyArena before moving into a new facility in downtown Seattle. The deadline for teams to apply for a move for the next season is March 1.
Hansen, a Seattle native and San Francisco-based investor, reached agreement with local governments in Seattle last October on plans to build a $490 million arena near the city’s other stadiums, CenturyLink Field and Safeco Field.
As part of the agreement, no construction will begin until all environmental reviews are completed and a team has been secured.
Hansen’s group is expected to pitch in $290 million in private investment toward the arena, along with helping to pay for transportation improvements in the area around the stadiums.
The plans also call for the arena to be able to handle a future NHL franchise.
The remaining $200 million in public financing would be paid back with rent money and admissions taxes from the arena, and if that money falls short, Hansen would be responsible for making up the rest.
Other investors in the proposed arena include Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer and two members of the Nordstrom department store family.
Hansen’s goal has been to return the SuperSonics to the Puget Sound after they were moved from Seattle to Oklahoma City in 2008.
Asked in September if he could envision a team being in Seattle for the 2013 season, Hansen was cautious about finding an option that quickly.
The Kings’ sale price would top the NBA-record $450 million the Golden State Warriors sold for in July 2010.
Brothers Joe, Gavin and George Maloof bought controlling interests in the franchise from Los Angeles-based developer Jim Thomas in 1999. The Maloofs, who have long waited for an upgrade to the team’s outdated arena, backed out of a tentative $391 million deal for a new downtown building with Sacramento last year, reigniting fears the franchise could relocate.
Johnson and the Kings broke off all negotiations in the summer with the team’s owners, who said the deal didn’t make financial sense for the franchise.
In 2011, the Kings appeared determined to move to Anaheim before Johnson convinced the NBA to give the city one last chance to help finance an arena.
At one point, Johnson seemed so certain the team was gone he called the process a “slow death” and compared the city’s efforts to keep the Kings a “Hail Mary.”
Johnson made a pitch to the NBA Board of Governors in April 2011, promising league owners the city would find a way to help finance a new arena to replace the team’s current outdated suburban facility. That pitch bought the Kings time, before the brokered deal between the city and the Maloofs fell apart last year.
AP sports writers Antonio Gonzalez and Bernie Wilson contributed to this story.
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