Conflicting signs over return of NBA to Seattle
SEATTLE – Another day brought another round of reports and rumors about the future of the Sacramento Kings and their potential relocation to Seattle.
What it did not bring was any resolution, with the fate of the Kings and a possible sale to a group that would move them to Seattle left unsettled.
Early Friday, a report suggested a deal to sell the Kings to a group that would relocate them to Seattle was done – a report that was not confirmed by anyone in an official capacity.
And by Friday afternoon, reports surfaced of at least two other potential buyers who might attempt to purchase the team and keep it in Sacramento.
The report stating the deal to bring the team to Seattle is complete came from Matt Steinmetz, a longtime NBA reporter and sports talk show host for Comcast SportsNet in the Bay Area. He reported that the transaction was “a done deal” and that the Maloof family, which owns the Kings, had agreed to sell the team to a group led by Chris Hansen for $525 million. That would be the most ever paid for an NBA franchise.
A Maloof family spokesman told the Seattle Times that he could not comment on the report. “Nothing has changed with our position that we will not comment on rumors or speculation about the Sacramento Kings franchise,” the family said in a statement.
An NBA spokesman told the Times that the league had no comment on the report. Hansen couldn’t be reached, and his representative declined to comment.
And the Sacramento Bee reported that a limited owner in the team, Richard Benvenuti, said he had not been told of a deal.
Meanwhile, both the Bee and CBSSports.com reported Friday afternoon that Mark Mastrov, the founder of 24-Hour Fitness who finished second in bidding for the Golden State Warriors, had made a formal offer to buy the Kings and keep the franchise in Sacramento.
“Definitely, there’ve been conversations,” Mastrov was quoted as saying by CBSSports.com. “Definitely, there’s interest in acquiring the team and keeping it in Sacramento.”
Mastrov told the Bee he had been in touch with the Maloofs and that owning a team would be “a passion of mine.”
The Bee also reported that Dale Carlsen of Sleep Train Mattress Centers Inc. said he has talked to Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and is interested in participating in a bid, and has contacted other potential investors. Sleep Train currently holds the naming rights to the arena where the Kings play.
After reports emerged Wednesday that a deal between the Maloofs and Hansen was close at hand, Johnson said he would reach out to potential buyers who would keep the team in Sacramento.
Left unclear was how serious the Maloofs might consider the offers to keep the team in Sacramento.
There was speculation in NBA circles that the family might be hoping to start a bidding war to drive up the price. The family is considering selling the team in part due to financial struggles, as well as its failures to relocate the Kings.
If Steinmetz’s report is true, though, the decisions have already been made.
Steinmetz reported that under the terms of the deal, the Maloof family would have “no stake or decision-making” in the team and “are out” of any involvement.
An NBA source had told the Seattle Times on Thursday that a sticking point in the negotiations was that the Maloofs wanted to retain a small percentage of the team and to have some say in how the team is run.
Reports began to surface late Tuesday night that the Maloofs and Hansen were working on a deal, possibly for more than two weeks. The Times has confirmed that negotiations have been ongoing.
The NBA has an annual deadline of March 1 for teams to apply for relocation. It’s thought Hansen’s group would like to have the sale completed so it can apply to relocate the team and play in Seattle next season. It would play at KeyArena for two years while a new arena is constructed.
Hansen has a deal with the city of Seattle and King County to build a new arena in Sodo once he and his investment group secure a team.
Plans to build a $490 million arena were approved by the City Council and the Metropolitan King County Council in October.
Seattle has been without an NBA team since 2008, when the Sonics were relocated to Oklahoma City by owner Clay Bennett.
Hansen has spent the past year laying the groundwork for an arena deal and attempting to buy a team to move to Seattle.
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