Sacramento, Seattle Bolstering Their Bids For NBA Kings As BOG Meeting Nears
The cities of Sacramento and Seattle yesterday both "made moves to strengthen their claim" to the NBA Kings, according to Tony Bizjak of the SACRAMENTO BEE. Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson "released a list of 24 businesses that have pledged $50 million in team corporate sponsorships for the next five years." He also said that he "plans to gather 10,000 season ticket purchase pledges to take with him" to the NBA BOG meeting in N.Y. next week. As of yesterday, a website compiling the pledges had 7,369 of them. But Seattle "scored a big headline of its own." Court documents showed that the Seattle group seeking to buy the Kings, led by hedge fund manager Chris Hansen and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, has "signed a tentative $15.1 million deal in bankruptcy court to take control of the 7 percent of the team owned by Sacramento businessman Bob Cook." Court officials said that Hansen's 7% purchase is "not final." Any of the team's other four minority owners "has the right to match that bid in the next 15 days." Johnson said that he would "announce a countermove in the next few days." Cook: "I would be surprised if a local group didn't match that" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 3/28). In Seattle, Bob Condotta notes Cook said that he "might even attempt to match" Hansen's purchase of the 7% stake. SI.com & NBA TV's Michael McCann said of Hansen's bid for Cook's stake said, "I don't think it's a total game-changer. But it puts the NBA in sort of an awkward position -- would it approve him as a minority owner but not as a majority owner? Why wouldn't they? It's a strategic move. It puts him in a position where the NBA has to sort of really come up with a reason not to approve him as an owner" (SEATTLE TIMES, 3/28).
POWER PLAY: In Seattle, Nick Eaton noted if the league "rejects Hansen’s plan to buy and move the Kings to Seattle," team Owner the Maloof family could "entertain a counteroffer" from the ownership group organized by Johnson. However, if Hansen's acquisition of this 7% is approved, "as a minority owner he could, with his newfound right of first refusal, block a potential later sale of the Kings to that Sacramento group" (SEATTLEPI.com, 3/27). In Sacramento, Ailene Voisin writes within the past five days -- perhaps the "most important five days in the history of the Kings -- Sacramento thrust itself back into the game." The league's owners "have some serious studying, evaluating and reviewing ahead" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 3/28). A SACRAMENTO BEE editorial writes under the header, "A Rush To Judgment By City Council On Downtown Arena Term Sheet." The editorial states, "Committing so much public money to one project comes with levels of uncertainty -- and the way the council reached its decision was a sham of the public, transparent process that should have happened" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 3/28).
WHERE WILL THE TEAM WIND UP? The S.F. Chronicle’s Ann Killion said despite Sacramento approving a new arena deal, the city will not be able to keep the Kings because the “momentum is with Seattle.” The San Jose Mercury News’ Mark Purdy said the decision is "really going to be determined by what (NBA Commissioner) David Stern wants,” as he can "organize the owners and get them to vote whichever way he wants.” Purdy: “I believe that they want to keep Seattle open as that threat for any team to move there. It’s more valuable for them that way almost and if this plan is real in Sacramento … I think the Kings do have a very good chance of staying in Sacramento.” CSNBayArea.com's Ray Ratto said, “This has always been Seattle’s to lose from the moment that the Maloofs agreed to sell.” Ratto noted Ballmer, the "money guy" behind Hansen's bid, is worth $15B. Ratto: "You only get to say no to guys like that one time. ... They would rather have him in the league; they’d rather have the Seattle market taken care of than Sacramento. Unless Chris Hansen does something incredibly stupid … it’s going to Seattle” (“Chronicle Live,” Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, 3/27).