NBA Kings limited partner John Kehriotis on Friday said that he has “pulled the plug on his effort to put together an investment team to bid for control of the team,” according to Tony Bizjak of the SACRAMENTO BEE. Kehriotis, who owns 12% of the team, previously said that he “hoped to assemble financing for a back-up offer to the deal" recently signed by Kings Owner the Maloof family with a Seattle group led by hedge fund manager Chris Hansen and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. Kehriotis' plan was “to keep the team in Sacramento.” He said, "One of my key investors bounced out. So we are not going forward" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 3/30). In Seattle, Bob Condotta noted a “question throughout the Sacramento/Seattle/Kings saga that has been hard to answer definitively is what happens to the Kings if the purchase agreement by the Chris Hansen-led Seattle group is denied.” The "assumption" is that the Maloof family will "sell the team to the ownership group being assembled in Sacramento.” But the Maloofs “don’t have to sell” the team and have “never said anything publicly one way or the other if they’d sell to someone else.” NBA.com’s Scott Howard-Cooper on Saturday reported on his Twitter feed that the Maloofs "might want to hold onto the team if the Seattle bid is denied.” Condotta wrote the Maloofs “desiring to keep the team could obviously be a big wildcard in this situation, and would be something the NBA would have to seriously consider in its decision.” The assumption is that the NBA “will have a pretty good idea from the Maloofs about their true intentions before the league makes a decision, even if publicly it’s unclear” (SEATTLETIMES.com, 3/31).
BACKDOOR CUT: NBA.com’s Howard-Cooper wrote the Maloofs are “disliked beyond measure in Sacramento,” but they have “received support from the most unlikely of sources: mayor Kevin Johnson.” Johnson has recently “gone out of his way to be complementary toward the Maloofs, notably at his State of the City address and most recently at Tuesday’s city council meeting.” The recent “obvious change of tone toward the Maloofs … smacks of Johnson trying to mend fences, just in case.” Sacramento may “still need to make nice with the family.” There is the “recent evidence that Johnson has, after the mayor and his top aides wrongly let earlier arena negotiations get personal when they should have understood the Maloofs are very emotional.” To suggest the Maloofs “want the Kings to end up in Sacramento, not Seattle, is the purest sign of all that KJ is schmoozing” (NBA.com, 3/28).
WHALE OF A TALE: In Sacramento, Reese & Bizjak in a front-page piece noted the campaign to keep the Kings in Sacramento “has developed into a larger civic plan, with some of California's richest business leaders promising to inject money and energy into the neglected heart of the capital city.” City officials said that they “see the so-called whales as white knights who will dramatically remake downtown by buying the Kings, building an arena at the Downtown Plaza site and surrounding it with offices, retail, housing and a hotel.” City Manager John Shirey said, "This is every city's dream to have this many investors with this much capital behind them with this much interest in investing in our city and our downtown specifically" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 3/31).