Reports surfaced Tuesday night and Wednesday morning of a sale agreement between the Maloof family and Chris Hansen’s Seattle-based investor group which would, in turn, ultimately lead to the Sacramento Kings relocating to Seattle. Insiders in both cities went back and forth all day Wednesday, attempting to both support and refute the claims that such a deal was imminent. Here’s a rundown of what developed Wednesday afternoon and into the evening, from Sacramento, Seattle, and across the country:
Sacramento Mayor, and former All-Star guard, Kevin Johnson held a press conference Tuesday afternoon, where he appeared visibly shook by news that the Maloofs had offered up the Kings for sale:
Today is a significant day because for the first time it appears the Sacramento Kings are officially up for sale. I will make every effort to ensure that a potential buyer(s) are made available to keep this team in Sacramento. We’ve always said we’re in control of our destiny and feel this gives us the opportunity to do so. We need to put ourselves in a position to find an ownership group to buy and keep the team here. We’ve heard from a number of people, if the team was for sale they would be interested in buying.
Johnson added that he has heard from potential local investors who could form a group to bid for the franchise:
Johnson said he’s been talking to various potential groups. “I cannot identify them,” he said. “There’s been more than one.”
One potential local buyer, billionaire Ronald Burkle, who was long-considered to be Sacramento’s savior, is almost certainly not in the running to acquire the franchise, according to NBATV’s David Aldridge (3:15 mark on the video):
I can tell you the Maloofs are not going to sell the team around Burkle, and I’m not guessing on that one. I’ve got people pretty close that have told me that. If there are other people with that kind of money in the Sacramento area who will pledge to keep them there they should step forward because it’s getting late. Once that (March 1st deadline) is set in place, I don’t see right now, anything that would stop that team from moving once they apply for relocation…I’m fairly certain the other owners would very quickly approve that and the Board of Governors would soon approve it in time for them to move by next season.
“That kind of money” is in reference to the $500 million offer that has been reported in the media. That figure seems to have caught a lot of people by surprise, but it was reported — albeit briefly — by USA Today almost two weeks ago.
Meanwhile, in a rain-and-hail-soaked Emerald City, scorned Sonics fans flooded social media all day, trumpeting the return of their beloved team. But local media tried to temper expectations, reiterating that a deal has not yet been finalized.
BTW, Any reports of a done deal (signed) between Maloofs and Hansen are inaccurate. Deal is moving along nicely but still not out of woods.
— mitch levy (@kjrmitch) January 9, 2013
However, KING5 TV’s Chris Daniels did say that negotiations had ramped up over the most recent 24-hour period, and that the two sides were “very, very close” to a deal.
I am just going to say this – The Maloofs and Hansen’s Group have been talking for a while. Things have heated up in last 24 hours.
— Chris Daniels (@ChrisDaniels5) January 9, 2013
Daniels’ notion that the two sides “have been talking for a while” is supported by other comments Aldridge made to NBATV’s Game Night crew, claiming the structure of the current deal on the table began to materialize sometime right before Christmas.
To darken the mood a bit, a tweet from CBS Sacramento’s Steve Large claimed the Maloofs had rejected any reported deal, but KJR 950 AM (Seattle sports talk radio) morning host Mitch Levy immediately refuted that claim.
Source: Seattle groups offer was rejected by Maloofs. Hmmm. Plot thickening by the minute.
— stevelarge_cbs13 (@largesteven) January 9, 2013
This report is BS. RT @bcondotta: A Sacramento TV station reporting Maloofs rejected the Seattle deal
— mitch levy (@kjrmitch) January 9, 2013
Large later tweeted that a source informed him the deal was rejected because the offer covered the debt the Maloofs owe to the NBA and Sacramento, but the total net gain wasn’t sufficient enough.
source: Offer that Maloofs rejected would have covered debt to NBA and Sac, but left a much smaller net sale price for team.
— stevelarge_cbs13 (@largesteven) January 10, 2013
While Sacramento fans hold out hope that a knight in shining armor will swoop in and save the franchise, Aldridge was quick to point out the NBA isn’t too keen on the idea of 11th-hour saviors, preferring to side with potential owners who have undergone a more planned and meticulous route to acquiring a team. Considering Hansen’s group has spent a few years leading up to this point, and has major political and business support to build an arena, the NBA would be hard-pressed to deny them that opportunity.