NBA Kings Owners the Maloof family has "reached an agreement to sell a 65 percent controlling interest in the franchise to a Seattle group led by hedge-fund manager Chris Hansen and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer," according to sources cited by Marc Stein of ESPN.com. Sources said that NBA teams were "formally notified" last night that the Kings have been "valued at $525 million and that the parties have executed a purchase agreement, which still requires league approval." The agreement to "transfer the 65 percent majority stake in the Kings to the Seattle group represents the 53 percent owned by the Maloofs and an additional 12 percent from minority owner Bob Hernreich." Sources said that there has "not yet been an agreement submitted on the remaining 35 percent of the franchise, which is held by minority shareholders." One source said that the Maloof family "will retain a 'small piece' of minority interest in the franchise after its expected relocation to Seattle and renaming as the SuperSonics for next season." The Maloofs would hold "no decision-making power once control of the franchise is transferred." The deal "calls for the Maloofs to receive a non-refundable" $30M deposit from the Seattle group by Feb. 1. The NBA is "fully expecting Hansen to apply for relocation to Seattle for the 2013-14 season by the league's March 1 deadline, enabling the league's board of governors to vote on the application at their annual April meeting" (ESPN.com, 1/20). YAHOO SPORTS' Adrian Wojnarowski reports the Seattle owners will "bring back the franchise's longtime Sonics name and colors." Sources said that while NBA commissioner David Stern "did work dutifully to find a way to keep the Kings in Sacramento for several years, the league was pushing the Maloof family to sell their 53 percent ownership share, and wanted badly for them to exit the league as owners" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/21). In Sacramento, Bizjak, Kasler & Lillis in a front-page piece note the selling price "would be a record for an NBA team." But Sacramento officials "vowed to press on with their plan to assemble a counteroffer that would keep the Kings from leaving" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 1/21).
LOOKING AHEAD: YAHOO SPORTS' Wojnarowski cites sources as saying the new NBA ownership group has "begun discussing possible candidates to run its franchise and has deliberated whether to target" Spurs GM R.C. Buford and former Pacers President Larry Bird. Sources said that Kings President of Basketball Operations Geoff Petrie, who is in the final year of his contract, "will not be retained." Petrie is "expected to retire at season's end" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/21). CBSSPORTS.com's Zach Harper writes the new owners "have to find a direction for their team." Petrie and other front office employees "most likely ... will be shown the door." New people with "fresh ideas and a better understanding of how to build a team in today's NBA would take over and figure out what they have with this roster" (CBSSPORTS.com, 1/21). Longtime NBA writer Peter Vecsey on his Twitter feed wrote former Lakers and Bulls coach Phil Jackson could be involved with a new Seattle franchise in a front-office role. Vecsey wrote Jackson would not coach but would "mentor" the team’s coach (TWITTER.com, 1/20).
SLEEPLESS NO MORE: In Seattle, Steve Kelley writes under the header, "You Can Believe It Now: NBA Is Coming Back." Kelley: "I just have the feeling, judging by the smart and understated way Hansen and his colleagues have gone about the arena proposal and the acquisition of this team, they will be equally good at finding the right people to make the right personnel decisions." They "are winners." Fans may "never open our arms to commissioner David Stern, but he wanted this deal to work." Kelley: "He told me four years ago he wanted Ballmer in the league. The league is better with Hansen and Ballmer in it" (SEATTLE TIMES, 1/21).