SBD/June 14, 2012/Franchises

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer And Two Others Join Seattle Arena Investor Group

Ballmer is apart of a 10-member investor group for a proposed arena in Seattle
Hedge fund manager Chris Hansen yesterday announced Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer "and two members of the Nordstrom family are part of the investor group seeking to bring" an NBA franchise to Seattle, according to Thompson & Young of the SEATTLE TIMES. The announcement, which came on the eve of a public rally planned for this afternoon in Seattle to show support for the arena proposal, has "buoyed supporters and eased some concerns of local politicians." City and county council members "must still approve the deal for it to take effect." Metropolitan King County Council member Pete von Reichbauer said that some constituents "already are asking why an ownership group that includes one of the richest individuals in the world needs up to $200 million in public bonds to finance the deal." Hansen "did not release the financial stake that the three have in the investment group." He said that they "would have an interest in both the arena and a new NBA team." Hansen also said that "as many as 10 investors would be involved, but that the others were not yet ready to be publicly identified" (SEATTLE TIMES, 6/14). In Seattle, Brier Dudley noted the amount of "financial security these people are offering the taxpayers of Seattle and King County in the arena deal remains to be seen" (SEATTLETIMES.com, 6/13).

HEALTHY DEBATE: The SEATTLE TIMES asked its editorial board members if the news of Ballmer and the Nordstrom family joining the investor group was "a game changer" for the arena deal. Lynne Varner wrote the names add "strength and credibility to the proposal." Varner: "Financially speaking, these guys are deep pockets who should reassure the public of the stability of the investment team and the worth of the proposal. These guys aren't fools. They're not looking to lose money." Bruce Ramsey wrote, "It seems like it's always some big name around here who wants to pick my pocket." Ramsey: "What is it with rich people around here? They have the money. They have truckloads of money. Good for them! I'm not against rich people. Glorious to be rich! But if you're rich, and you want [to] buy a basketball team, and you want to build a stadium for the team and you want to sell tickets to the public, fine. Do it. Do it yourself" (SEATTLETIMES.com, 6/13).

LONG LIVE THE KINGS? In Seattle, Bob Condotta writes, "One of the key questions remains: Where will Seattle get a team?" The NBA "has no plans for expansion, and the pool of teams has shrunk since Hansen's plans first leaked in February." Only the Kings "appear to be a possibility for relocation." NBA Commissioner David Stern has "praised the fans in Sacramento for being 'great partners' of the NBA," however that "doesn't guarantee the Kings staying in Sacramento." One scenario is "for Hansen's group to buy the Kings from Joe and Gavin Maloof." Condotta: "Some believe the Maloofs have long wanted to move the team to Anaheim but don't want to keep it in Sacramento or move it elsewhere. Being denied the chance to go to Anaheim could cause the Maloofs to sell" (SEATTLE TIMES, 6/14).

JET CITY CHATTER: Before things became heated between NBA Commissioner David Stern and Jim Rome yesterday during their on-air interview, Stern said he met this week with Seattle Mayor Michael McGinn. Stern said, "They have plans for a new building, so we’ll see where that goes.” Stern said the idea of a new building in Seattle “sounds like it is” going to move forward but “it always takes a process [of] permitting and negotiations and actually finding a team, if there is one. But at least they understand the issue" (“The Jim Rome Show,” 6/13).
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