DALLAS – At this stage of the game, Seattle will not see the Kings play in the Great Northwest no time soon unless the city gets an National Basketball Association (NBA) expansion team or purchase an existing team.
It’s now official that team won’t be the Sacramento Kings.
In a long, anticipated vote, the NBA’s Board of Governors, in 22-8 majority, rejected a petition to relocate the Kings to Seattle. The fans of Sacramento will see the Kings take the floor, again, for the 29th season, and hopefully beyond.
“The owners had a very difficult decision,” Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson said of the decision. “It was gut-wrenching. We know that. It was painful and difficult. They had been working around the clock and across the board.”
Within 16 minutes of his news conference following the Board of Governors’ vote, NBA Commissioner David Stern put the whole ordeal in perspective for the cities of Sacramento and Seattle. The Kings have been in Sacramento since 1985.
“The edge went to the incumbent,” Stern said. “That was the way it came out.”
The meeting before the voted started off with presentations by both representing cities. Billionaire hedge-fund manager Chris Hansen and Gavin Maloof went before the board with their presentation followed by Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and Silicon Valley billionaire Vivek Ranadive. Ranadive is the lead investor for Sacramento’s ownership group.
With the relocation issued settled, Stern said the NBA would work with the Maloofs to direct their efforts into selling the team to Ranadive. Ranadive and the city of Sacramento have done everything the NBA asked them to do during the process and they never failed on a commitment.
When the league asked that a new sports and entertainment complex be included in the package, the Sacramento City Council voted 7-2 in favor of contributing $258 million to a $450-million facility in the Downtown Plaza. When the Ranadive and the ownership group was asked to put up 50 percent of the asking price in escrow, they did it. When the NBA returned to ask for 100 percent of the amount, Ranadive and the consortium reached in their pockets with conviction.
“I told the mayor (Johnson) that the only thing they haven’t asked me to do was dunk,” Ranadive said when he and Johnson held a news conference after the NBA commissioner. “But if they do ask me (to dunk) I know who has one of the Top 10 dunks of all time.”
The Maloofs had already put together a back-up plan on their own that included selling 20 percent of the team to Hansen and billionaire Steve Ballmer. However, Stern said that’s not the direction the league is going since the vote put Sacramento entirely in the driver’s seat, next to the Maloofs.
“We’ll talk to the Maloofs and seek in the next 24 to 48 hours whether we can help facilitate an agreement to be signed between the Ranadive group and the Maloofs for the sell of the franchise in Sacramento” Stern said. “I won’t say anything but I anticipate that will come and they be open (to sell the team to Sacramento).
The majority decision, Stern said, came down to whether Sacramento could keep the team with a “financially strong ownership group,” support from the community,” and its ability to build a new sports arena. Sacramento met every criteria, realistically since the Maloofs tried to dislodge the team and move it to Anaheim two years ago.
On April 29, the NBA’s relocation committee voted unanimously, 7-0, to prevent the move to Seattle. The surprised vote was a strong indication that the rest of the owners in the league would accept the recommendation.
Despite Stern’s insistence that a bidding war would not affect the outcome of the Board of Governors’ decision, the Seattle group led by Hansen continued to up the ante for the Kings.
On May 10, the Seattle group bumped its offer for 65 percent of the Kings to $625 million from $525 million, what would be a record sell for an NBA franchise. The current standing record is the Golden State Warriors three years ago for $450 million.
The increase would let the Maloofs net $409 million instead $341 million that was first proposed and agreed upon with Hansen in January. Before the relocation committee voted in Sacramento’s favor, the Seattle group had already lifted its offer from $525 million to $550 million.
It was also reported by ESPN.com and a local Sacramento newspaper that the deal included a relocation fee payout of $4 million per team. For 29 teams, excluding the Kings, the total package for the relocation fee would be exactly $116.
Johnson and Vivek Ranadive said they were not surprise that the Seattle group increased its bid for the team. They expected the move, but remained optimistic about Sacramento’s counter offer of $341 million (which equaled Hansen and his group’s primary offer to the Maloofs).
Johnson commended the city of Seattle for its courageous actions and “I hope they get a team at some point and I think they will ,” Johnson said. The mayor also said that it was never a competition between both cities.
“My hat goes off to Seattle,” Johnson said. “It’s a great sports town and great basketball community. For them to come up a little short, especially what happened in 2008, to have lost their team. That’s devastating. That’s why we fought so hard. We didn’t want to lose our team. We know what that feels like.”
By Antonio Harvey
OBSERVER Staff Writer