SACRAMENTO, CA - While it appears the fate of the Sacramento Kings won't be officially known until April, sources working to keep the Kings in Sacramento say the ownership group is forming faster and better than expected.
Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson is assembling the ownership group to compete with a widely reported $525 million bid from Seattle, led by San Francisco hedge fund manager Chris Hansen and Microsoft's Steve Ballmer.
The source, speaking on condition of anonymity, told News10 the group could be announced as early as next week.
Johnson admits big names with deep pockets are being added to the equation.
"There's not one or two, there's multiple people that are interested," Johnson said. "Once it leaked and once it became public that there was a potential deal in Seattle, my phone hasn't stopped ringing. These are people that have significant dollars and these are people that want in at different levels."
The current majority owners of the Sacramento Kings, the Maloofs, haven't publically acknowledged the team is for sale. However, numerous reports say the brothers are engaged in a deal to sell the team to Seattle.
NBA Commissioner David Stern said Thursday, "No sale or purchase agreement has been submitted to us. If one were to be executed, the next thing they would do is submit it to us."
That sale could now be contingent upon several factors, namely Stern's possible fondness for Sacramento and allowing Johnson to speak before the league's governing board in April.
If the Sacramento Kings were to move to Seattle they would have to file for relocation by March 1 (although that deadline was extended two years ago by request of the Maloofs when they were contemplating moving to Anaheim).
After that, Johnson must convince the other NBA owners who will ultimately approve or deny the sale of the team and a move. Stern granted the mayor's request to speak last week.
"Communities that have been supportive, and Sacramento has been particularly supportive, are always welcome to present," Stern said.
Johnson wouldn't say when an announcement regarding the alternate ownership group was planned.
"I'd hope that we have our ownership group in place and on track to be competitive going into the filing deadline which is March 1st," Johnson said.
One competitive advantage for Sacramento is the money involved. Seattle's $525 million bid is for the entire team. Several sources say new local owners wouldn't have to hit that high mark, just enough to buy out the Maloofs' controlling stake in the team, which reports say is approximately 53 percent.
If the Kings were to stay, there would be no relocation fees or costs and the city of Sacramento's loan of $77 million wouldn't have to repaid immediately.
The source said in both scenarios, the Maloofs would walk away with the same amount of cash.
Sacramento City Manager John Shirey said, "If the Maloof family cares about Sacramento and cares about a legacy here, I think they'll want to care about a team that will keep it local."
By Nick Monacelli, firstname.lastname@example.org