SACRAMENTO - The Seattle group led by hedge fund manager Chris Hansen, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and the Nordstrom family has finalized a deal to buy a controlling interest in the Sacramento Kings, two people with knowledge of the situation confirmed to USA TODAY Sports.
The people requested anonymity because the deal had not yet been announced. The Maloofs, who have owned majority interest in the team since 1999, will sell the 65% they control for a price based on a $525 million valuation of the franchise (approximately $341 million). The remaining 35% belongs to minority owners and would likely be transferred in the transaction so long as it's approved by the NBA's Board of Governors.The finalizing of the deal was first reported by NBCSports.com and ESPN.com.
"The NBA received an executed Purchase and Sale Agreement for the transfer of a controlling interest in the Sacramento Kings from the Maloof family to an investor group led by Christopher Hansen," the NBA said in a statement released Monday morning. "The proposed transaction is subject to the approval of the NBA Board of Governors and has been referred to the Board's committee process for review."
Kings co-owner Gavin Maloof, on behalf of the Maloof family, released a statement shortly after the NBA: "We have always appreciated and treasured our ownership of the Kings and have had a great admiration for the fans and our team members. We would also like thank Chris Hansen for his professionalism during our negotiation. Chris will be a great steward for the franchise."
The Hansen-Ballmer group is expected to file for relocation to Seattle before the league's March 1 deadline, and the Board of Governors would consider their bid at a mid-April meeting. The Seattle SuperSonics, as they would be called after that team became the Oklahoma City Thunder in a 2008 sale, would play at Key Arena in Seattle next season. A new facility is expected to be opened two years later. The Kings franchise was valued at just $300 million by Forbes magazine in 2012, but this current valuation of $525 million would surpass the league-record $450 million paid for the Golden State Warriors in July 2010.
The odds appear slim that this deal will fail, but NBA Commissioner David Stern has made it clear that Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, a former NBA All-Star point guard for the Phoenix Suns, will have a chance to make another last-ditch attempt to save his hometown team. Johnson, a Sacramento native, has been organizing an ownership group and an arena plan with the intention of making the sort of competitive counteroffer that would convince the NBA to block the relocation. It's a similar situation to the one in April 2011, when the Kings appeared headed for Anaheim before Johnson's bid in front of the Board of Governors led to the team staying.
In a statement made late Sunday night, Johnson didn't wave a white flag, while emphasizing Sacramento as a one-team town that provides the NBA more of a captive audience than Seattle.
"Sacramento has proven that it is a strong NBA market with a fan base that year in and year out has demonstrated a commitment to the Kings by selling out 19 of 27 seasons in a Top 20 market and owning two of the longest sellout streaks in NBA history," he said. "When it comes to keeping the team in our community, Sacramento is playing to win. In particular, we have been focused like a laser on identifying an ownership group that will both have the financial resources desired by the NBA and the vision to make the Kings the NBA equivalent of what the Green Bay Packers have been in the NFL."
Stern told news reporters in London last week the league had not received a purchase agreement. But Stern kept open the door for Johnson to make his case directly to the league.
"The Mayor of Sacramento has asked me, 'Well, if this comes to pass because we've been reading it in the newspapers - and he knows that anything he reads in the newspapers is likely to be accurate - could I come in and address the board of governors or the relocation committee?' " Stern said Thursday. "And I said, 'Always.' ... Communities have supported us, and many that haven't, but Sacramento has been particularly supportive (and) are always welcome to present. The mayor has been in before (in April of 2011 during the Anaheim chapter). That's it, other than the speculation of what's going on."
Stern and the NBA, alongside major sports business power Anschultz Entertainment Group, helped form Johnson's plan to keep the team in Sacramento before the Maloofs backed out of an arena deal last February. AEG recently re-emerged and is still on board with a possible arena plan, though that's merely one of the many avenues Johnson has been exploring.
By Sam Amick - USA TODAY SPORTS