National Basketball Association Commissioner David Stern and a group of suitors assembled by Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson will try to persuade the Maloof family to complete a sale of the Kings within the next few days.
The group’s $525 million offer, which would be a record price for an NBA team, is the only bid remaining after team owners yesterday voted 22-8 to block the Kings from moving to Seattle. The decision ended a $625 million bid from a group led by Valiant Capital founder Chris Hansen that included Microsoft Corp. Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer.
Johnson said his group -- which includes Vivek Ranadive, a Golden State Warriors part-owner and the founder of Tibco Software Inc. -- two days ago placed in escrow the purchase amount while a final sale agreement is negotiated. George Maloof said after yesterday’s vote in Dallas that he doesn’t feel any pressure to sell the team his family has owned since July 1999.
“It is my expectation that we’ll be able to make a deal with the Maloofs and the Ranadive group to transfer title of the team in Sacramento,” Stern said at a news conference yesterday. “It’s not a certainty, but we’re going to work on that result.”
While the Maloofs have said throughout the process that their preference was to sell to the Hansen group, the Kings owners have never said they won’t sell to his investors, Johnson said at a news conference last night. Lawyers for the Maloofs and bidders have been in talks for a few weeks, Johnson said.
“I feel pretty confident that we can get something done in the next few days,” Ranadive said in a news conference. “We can get this done very quickly.”
The Sacramento bid includes a plan to build a new $448 million arena downtown in California’s capital city. The Maloofs reached a deal with Sacramento in February 2012 to build a new arena, only to have the accord fall through within two months.
“We’re going to deliver because it’s bigger than basketball,” Johnson, a former NBA player, told reporters yesterday. “We’ve got a chance to transform our downtown.”
Yesterday’s vote by the NBA’s Board of Governors came after a 12-member panel of team owners recommended unanimously on April 29 that the NBA turn down Hansen’s bid.
The Maloofs reached an agreement in January with Hansen to sell the Kings for $525 million and relocate the franchise to Seattle, which lost its team in 2008 when the SuperSonics ended their 41-year stay by moving to Oklahoma City and becoming the Thunder.
Hansen’s group increased its offer to $550 million after Ranadive’s group matched the bid. The Seattle group last week again boosted its bid to $625 million to “further demonstrate the extent of our commitment to bring basketball back to Seattle,” Hansen said at the time.
“Our day will come,” Hansen said in a statement after yesterday’s vote, “and when it does it will just be that much sweeter for the struggle.”
Stern and Adam Silver, who is due to become NBA commissioner on Feb. 1, said they may look at expanding the league beyond 30 teams after a new television deal is negotiated, in about a year.
“We’ve never wavered from our desire to return to Seattle,” Silver said in a news conference. “We fully expect we will return there one day.”
The record for an NBA team sale is $450 million, which Joe Lacob and Peter Guber spent to buy the Golden State Warriors in 2010.
The Associated Press reported three days ago that the Maloof family had a backup deal with the Seattle group that would allow Hansen to purchase at least 20 percent of the Maloofs’ ownership stake at a valuation of $600 million.
While the Maloofs would retain majority ownership and continue to run the team in Sacramento, the Seattle group would hold the right to purchase a controlling stake in the franchise within two years, AP said. Hansen’s group would still need approval from other NBA owners to become limited partners.
The Kings franchise began in 1948 in Rochester, New York, as the Royals; moved to Cincinnati in 1958; became the Kansas City-Omaha Kings from 1972 to 1975, and was the Kansas City Kings from 1976 to 1985 before moving to Sacramento. The team’s only NBA title was in 1951.