As he prepares to attend the NBA All-Star Game this weekend in Houston, Sacramento delivered a message Tuesday to Seattle sports fans lusting for the sale of the Kings to Chris Hansen:
“Seattle people would like you to believe the deal is done (to move the Kings),” he said. “And the deal is not done.”
Johnson claimed he is getting “very close” to revealing the deep-pocketed investors he has recruited to make a pitch to buy the franchise from the Maloof family, according to the Sacramento Bee. But that disclosure apparently will wait until he attempts to lobby individual owners at the league’s annual mid-winter party.
The NBA is also requiring the Kings to have a serious plan to replace the suburban Sleep Train Arena with a new facility downtown. Two potential investors, Ron Burkle and Mark Mastrov, have been identified as interested.
Hansen has signed a purchase-and-sale agreement with the Maloofs for a franchise value of $525 million, and has filed paperwork to relocate the Kings to Seattle for the start of next season. Johnson probably has until the scheduled April 19 meeting of NBA owners to make a formal counteroffer, but raised the possibility Tuesday that he may make his case earlier to a league subcommittee charged with vetting the relocation.
In a related matter, the Maloofs Friday were forced to turn over documents to a bankruptcy court regarding the proposed sale of their 53 percent of the team, the Bee reported. One of the team’s minority owners, Bob Cook, has filed for bankruptcy, and insists his seven percent of the club includes a right of first refusal on the sale and relocation.
The documents are not public but will be made available to interested bidders, which could include Hansen and the investors interested in keeping the team in Sacramento. A potential bidding war would drive up the value of Cook’s shares, which are being auctioned off to satisfy creditors.
The ownership documents reportedly contain conflicting language over the right of first refusal, which may require a judge’s ruling. If a judge agrees that the right of first refusal is valid, it could complicate or delay Hansen’s ability to get relocation approval. The claim has yet to be made in court.
Any way you slice it the NBA comes out of this with a tidy sum but has their name dragged thru the mud. If the Kings go to Seattle then it shows despite fan loyalty and city wide support NBA franchises go where the money is and that there’s no loyalty to their franchise cities. If they stay in Seattle it shows how you can commit half a billion dollars and a “world class arena” as well as be one of the largest markets in North America and it won’t get you anything. Who’d want to do business with the NBA when they waffle so much?
As monopoly operation, the NBA doesn’t worry much about its business reputation. It’s like the mock slogan developed for the pre-breakup AT&T: “We don’t have to care.” They know there will more more cities than teams.
Johnson has been very close for months to years. He can try and complicate things, but I’m not sure how a viable arena plan gets done so quickly (viable as in it can’t just be pie in the sky). Without that, even with a proposed ownership group (also not a sure thing), it’s DOA. If the relocation committee gives the thumbs up it’s done. What about the larger board of governance approval of the sale? Doesn’t matter. Worse case scenario, the Maloofs move the team here and then sell it. That’s certainly as plausible as the NBA giving Johnson another pass. The most likely scenario is approval of the move and sale.
Art, back in October you wrote:
Hansen reiterated Tuesday that he is not going to be predatory.
“We’re not going to go around saying, ‘Please sell us your team,’ “he said. “We’re not going to pry a team away.”
Do you think what Hansen is doing now contradicts that statement (or, to put it bluntly, makes him a liar)? Or is what he said then different than “if a team is available, we won’t pursue it”?
Also, do you think that Hansen’s pursuit of the Kings means that expansion isn’t an option for the foreseeable future?