May 11, 2013 in Sports

Hansen ups offer to buy Kings

Bob Condotta Seattle Times
 

SEATTLE – After the NBA’s Relocation Committee voted unanimously last week to recommend that the Sacramento Kings stay put, Chris Hansen promised “we have absolutely no plans to give up” in his attempt to bring the team to the Seattle market.

Friday, Hansen followed through on that pledge, announcing he would increase the Seattle group’s offer that he says would increase the value of the Kings to $625 million, up from $550 million.

Hansen and his group, which includes Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, had an agreement to buy 65 percent of the team from the current owners, the Maloof family, for roughly $358 million. Friday’s increase of $48.75 million bumped that to $406.25 million.

The total valuation is by far the most for a team in NBA history – the highest price paid for a team was $450 million for the Golden State Warriors in 2010.

Hansen wrote in a statement on his sonicsarena.com website that the offer was “an effort to further demonstrate the extent of our commitment to bring basketball back to Seattle.”

Hansen hopes the increase might be enough to sway the NBA’s Board of Governors when it meets in Dallas on Wednesday, expected to make a final decision on the four-month tug-of-war between Seattle and Sacramento for the Kings.

The 7-0 vote of the Relocation Committee last week had many assuming the Board of Governors would likely follow suit and keep the Kings in Sacramento.

Michael McCann, an on-air legal analyst for NBA-TV, said it’s hard to know the ramifications of Hansen’s move Friday because the league has yet to define what the BOG will be voting on next week. Based on what has been said, the BOG would be voting on whether to approve the sale of the team to Hansen. Making such a higher bid might make it difficult for the league to turn down Hansen’s offer, McCann said.

“My sense is Hansen is earnestly trying to win both relocation and sale vote before the full Board of Governors and overcome the committee vote,” McCann said. “If Hansen fails to win, he might be trying to plant seeds for an antitrust case against the NBA – basically, the league should expand given this offer.”

Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson followed Hansen’s statement by expressing confidence the Kings will remain in Sacramento.

“The NBA leadership and owners have always said that their decision would not be dictated by a bidding war,” his statement read. “This was always about whether Sacramento, a community that has supported the NBA for 28 years, can put together a plan and organization to ensure the franchise can rebuilt and thrive.

“The ownership group, the city and the community have shown the NBA, without any shred of doubt, that the Sacramento Kings belong in Sacramento. I believe the NBA owners realize that there is far more to think about than just an increased bid. They know what this story means to the league.

“We look forward to talking with all of them again in Dallas.”

Hansen did more than just raise the offer for the team, however, announcing the team would be a “revenue sharing payer in all years in Seattle.” A group attempting to keep the team in Sacramento said recently it would not take from the revenue sharing plan. As a smaller market team, Sacramento would likely not pay into the system, a difference the Seattle group has attempted to emphasize with NBA owners, who share in the revenue.

Hansen also noted the Seattle arena project is “far ahead” of Sacramento’s, specifically that “the ownership group has acquired 100 percent of the property necessary to construct the Arena” and that “we have 100 percent of our private financing for the Arena committed and in place.”

He concluded: “While we appreciate that this is a very difficult decision for the league and owners, we hope it is understood that we really believe the time is now to bring the NBA back to Seattle, and that it is paramount that we do everything we can to put Seattle’s best foot forward in this process.”

As for whether the offer could sway the NBA’s decision, one league source said it could, due to the precedent that would be set by the offer in increasing the value of all the franchises. One said it could also potentially set up legal action if the NBA does not take the highest offer.

A Sacramento group has offered $341 million for 65 percent of the team, or a total valuation of $525 million, which was the initial Hansen offer in January. Hansen increased that offer by $25 million total (or between $16 million and $17 million for 65 percent) in April.

The Maloof family has several times indicated it would prefer to sell the team to Hansen’s group. A Maloof family spokesman said Friday it would have no comment about Hansen’s latest offer.

It was reported earlier this week that the Sacramento group was being encouraged to place 100 percent of its offer into escrow in hopes of “persuading” the Maloofs to accept the offer. NBA.com reported Friday it was still unclear if the full purchase price had been put into escrow.

The Sacramento Bee reported that a source said the Sacramento group is being asked to make the move to show that it has “the wherewithal” to back its offer.


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