Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and Seattle Seahawks owner Ken Behring have reached an “agreement in principle” for Allen to take an option to buy the team, a King County Council member said Saturday.
The 14-month option would give Allen time to see if the community will support either improvements to the Kingdome or a new stadium, Councilman Peter von Reichbauer said.
“Ken Behring would still own the team. Paul Allen would have the option to buy during that time,” von Reichbauer said.
“They together would work with the state and county and with the community in getting changes at the Kingdome or addressing the needs of housing professional sports in this region.”
Representatives for both Allen and Behring did not return repeated telephone messages Saturday for comment. Seahawks coach Dennis Erickson, at the team’s Kirkland headquarters for the NFL draft, declined comment.
Allen’s option to buy the team would be dropped if the community does not agree to improve where the Seahawks play, von Reichbauer said.
Earlier in the day, Allen’s spokeswoman, Susan Pierson, confirmed that talks had intensified, but stopped short of saying a deal had been made.
“It’s certainly fair to say that there’s been conversations and evaluations ongoing, and it’s certainly fair to say that those have stepped up in the last week or so, but you’re not going to see an announcement from us today,” Pierson told Seattle radio station KIRO.
King County Executive Gary Locke said he was encouraged by the news of a tentative deal, but withheld celebrating until it became official. < “I’m not going to rejoice until the dotted line is signed,” Locke said during an impromptu news conference Saturday. “But I’m really pleased. The signs are positive that the Seahawks will be sold to local ownership.”
Von Reichbauer said he expects a formal announcement from Behring and Allen within the next few days.
The News Tribune of Tacoma reported Saturday that a deal was near. Allen had offered between $170 million and $180 million for the Seahawks, the newspaper said.
With the team’s existing debt, the total price would be about $200 million.
Behring, a California real estate developer, paid $80 million and assumed $19 million of debt for the team in August 1988.
Allen, who founded Microsoft with Bill Gates and who also owns the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers, is worth in excess of $6 billion.
Once a deal is reached, it must be submitted to the NFL for approval.
Allen would have to work out something with the NFL, which limits ownership to one professional team, but exceptions have been made, von Reichbauer said.
“Until the team announces something, we’ll have no comment,” said NFL spokesman Greg Aiello.
On Feb. 2, Behring announced he was going to move the Seahawks to California, saying the 20-year-old Kingdome would be unsafe in an earthquake and is not the first-class facility specified in his lease.
King County said the county-owned dome was safe, and that it would hold Behring to the 10 years remaining on his lease. The county has sued to keep the team from leaving. Trial is to begin May 28 in King County Superior Court.
The Seahawks began workouts in Anaheim, Calif., but Behring later moved the sessions back to Kirkland when the NFL threatened a $500,000 fine. He has said repeatedly that the Seahawks are not for sale and that they would move to Southern California.
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