(Corrects Johnson’s NBA team in ninth paragraph.)
The Sacramento Kings are set to move to Seattle at the conclusion of a sale that’s said to value the team at a National Basketball Association-record $525 million.
“We’ve entered a binding agreement with the Maloofs to purchase a controlling interest of the Sacramento Kings,” Chris Hansen, the leader of a group that also includes Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer, said in a statement.
Hansen, the founder of San Francisco-based Valiant Capital Management, said he couldn’t discuss details of the sale “or our plans for the franchise.” The league expects the new owners to file to relocate the team to Seattle for the 2013-14 season, ESPN reported. The NBA said it had received the sale agreement, which must be approved by its board of governors.
“We have always appreciated and treasured our ownership of the Kings,” co-owner Gavin Maloof said in a statement. “Chris will be a great steward for the franchise.”
A person with first-hand knowledge of the deal who requested anonymity because financial details remained confidential said the agreement puts the Kings’ value at $525 million. The previous NBA record was $450 million, paid by Joe Lacob and Peter Guber for the Golden State Warriors in 2010. The last team to be sold was the New Orleans Hornets, which was purchased from the league by Tom Benson for $338 million in June.
The Kings have been owned by the Maloof family since July 1999. A preliminary deal reached in February with the city of Sacramento, California, to build a new arena and keep the franchise from relocating fell through.
Seattle has been without an NBA team since 2008, when the SuperSonics ended their 41-year stay by moving to Oklahoma City and becoming the Thunder. That move followed a lack of public support for building a new arena in Seattle to replace KeyArena, where the Sonics had played since their inception in 1967.
The Kings would play in KeyArena for two years before moving into a new venue, according to the Sacramento Bee.
Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, a former NBA All-Star with the Phoenix Suns, said in a statement on Jan. 9 that he was “making every effort to identify a potential buyer that would ensure the Kings remain in Sacramento.”
After reports of the sale yesterday, Johnson posted on his Twitter account: “Let me be clear. Though agreement btw Maloofs & Seattle is out, deal is NOT done. Sac can still present an offer 2 NBA BOG.”
The Kings, who last made the playoffs in 2006, are 16-26 this season after a 114-105 defeat to the Hornets last night.
The franchise has been located in Sacramento since 1985. It began in 1948 in Rochester, New York, as the Royals; moved to Cincinnati in 1958; became the Kansas City-Omaha Kings from 1972-75; and was the Kansas City Kings from 1976-85. The team’s only NBA title was in 1951.
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