SBD/January 10, 2013/Franchises

Speculation Picking Up About NBA Kings Moving To Seattle, But No Deal Is Done

A source said a formal offer for the Kings has not been made to the Maloofs
The Maloofs reportedly have been "talking with a deep-pocketed Seattle investment group" about selling the NBA Kings for a league-record $500M and moving the team to the city, but "no deal is done and no formal offer has been made," according to sources cited in a front-page piece by Bizjak, Kasler & Lillis of the SACRAMENTO BEE. Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson “reacted late in the day, holding a news conference to say he is trying to recruit local buyers for the Kings.” Johnson declined to identify potential local bidders, but said that he "has been hearing from people since plans for a new arena downtown fell apart last spring.” A source said that discussions between the Kings and Seattle hedge fund manager Chris Hansen are “only ‘conceptual’ at this point.” Another source said media reports yesterday of a potential sale were "premature." The source added that the Seattle group “has not made a formal offer.” Bizjak, Kasler & Lillis note the news “reflects a dramatic shift by the Maloof family.” The team's two most active owners, Joe and Gavin Maloof, previously said that they “would never repeat the mistake their family made” in selling the Rockets in ’82. A source said that the Maloofs “may have been forced into the decision to consider a sale.” The Kings are $200M in debt and “could lose between" $6-7M this season. The source added that the Maloofs “intend to make a capital call to the minority owners of the Kings, seeking contributions to help cover the projected loss.” The source said that the call is a “potential ‘triggering event’ for a sale of the Kings” (SACRAMENTO BEE, 1/10).

THE INITIAL REPORT: YAHOO SPORTS’ Adrian Wojnarowski cited sources as saying that the Maloof family was “finalizing an agreement” to sell the Kings to a group that “hopes to move the franchise to Seattle for the 2013-14 season.” The deal “will sell the Kings for approximately" $500M to a group led by Hansen and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. Sources said that the Seattle group's plans, with “support of the NBA, is to play two seasons in KeyArena before moving into a new Seattle arena.” Sources added that the Maloofs are “expected to keep an extremely small percentage of the team, but will have no real input or say in the franchise.” One source said that the prospective ownership group plans “to change the Kings’ name and logos back to the original proprietors of the city's NBA history: the Sonics.” The source said, "Same name and logos” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/9). USA TODAY’s Amick & Zillgitt cite a source as saying that the Seattle group has “made significant progress in negotiations” to buy the Kings and is “confident a deal will get done.” The NBA’s deadline by which teams "must file for relocation” is March 1, and any move “must be approved” by the NBA BOG (USA TODAY, 1/10).

FALK TALK: In Seattle, Nick Provenza noted a rumor of the deal “originated in a Tweet from Daina Falk, a food blogger ... and also the daughter of longtime NBA agent David Falk." Daina Falk on Tuesday wrote on her Twitter feed, “So I hear that the Seattle Kings is officially a done deal! The Maloofs (the family that owns the Kings) finally sold the ailing Sacramento team." Falk when questioned about the Tweet said that she had “heard it from someone who would know.” She also “referred to the Tweet on her Facebook page saying to wait and see what happens over the next few days” (SEATTLETIMES.com, 1/9). David Falk said that he “wasn’t the source" for his daughter’s tweet. In Seattle, Scott Sunde reported David Falk has “apologized to the Maloofs for 'any inconvenience' the rumor caused the Kings.” Daina Falk’s tweet has since “been removed” (SEATTLEPI.com, 1/9).

TOP DOLLAR: In Seattle, Bob Condotta notes the $500M price would be “the most ever paid for an NBA team,” with the high to date the $450M paid for the Warriors in July ‘10. The Seattle group also “would have to pay an NBA relocation fee, which would be at least" $30M. It is “unclear” whether the reported $500M "would include paying back" $77M the Maloofs owe on a loan made through the city of Sacramento. The Maloofs "also owe the NBA" about $75M (SEATTLE TIMES, 1/10). A SACRAMENTO BEE editorial states if reports of the negotiations are “true, the very least the Maloofs can do is allow time for a bid from ownership groups who would keep the team in Sacramento.” The other Kings owners, who control 47% of the team, “need to push in that direction.” It also is “way past time for the Maloofs, who previously insisted they had no plans to sell the team, to make a clear statement of their intentions.” Their “stock answer to any question -- their PR people say the team won't comment on ‘rumors or speculation’ -- is disrespectful to city leaders and long-suffering fans, who deserve far better” (SACRAMENTO BEE, 1/10). In Sacramento, Ailene Voisin writes under the header, “Maloofs Owe Sacramento A Chance To Keep The Kings” (SACRAMENTO BEE, 1/10).

MALOOFS DESERVE BLAME: Also in Sacramento, Marcus Breton writes, “None of the turmoil surrounding the team is the fault of this community.” It is “all on the owners.” It is “their doing, their failures, their dysfunction and their unbelievable gall.” If the Kings had “committed owners, their old barn of a home would sell out nightly.” It is “disgraceful that the league has allowed the Maloofs to mismanage the Kings for as long as they have through their absentee ownership.” The Maloofs “all but commission signs that say ‘Go away, fans.’” Breton: “All roads lead back to the same reason the Kings are an ever-churning rumor mill of imminent departure, playing in a faded building for six straight losing seasons: The Maloofs are the worst owners in the NBA” (SACRAMENTO BEE, 1/10). CBSSPORTS.com’s Ken Berger offered “some tough-love advice" for Sacramento. Berger: "Give up. Bid the Kings and the Maloofs and the NBA good riddance." Berger: "Do not invest another dime of your money or ounce of your passion in a team that is, at the end of the day, little more than a dilapidated storefront for owners who could not get out of their own way. ... If and when this deal to send the Kings to Seattle is finalized, the people of Sacramento should consider the Kings extinct as of today. Enough money and loyalty and sweat and emotion have been invested, spent and lost. No more” (CBSSPORTS.com, 1/9).

CHANCE FOR STERN TO RIGHT A WRONG: SPORTING NEWS’ Sean Deveney wrote it would be “easy to say that the Maloofs have turned the Kings into a circus, but the circus probably attracts a bigger crowd.” News that a deal to move to Seattle is close “could be a serious relief” for NBA Commissioner David Stern. Stern “knows full well” that the potential Seattle deal “offers the best chance to erase one of the black marks on his legacy as commissioner.” He “can’t let it pass” (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 1/9). CBS Sports Network’s Roger Lodge said, "The city of Seattle deserves a team since (Clay) Bennett swiped the Thunder -- the Sonics -- and moved them to Oklahoma City, which we all know was going to happen” ("Lead Off," CBS Sports Network, 1/9). 
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