The Maloof family that owns the Sacramento Kings has reached an agreement to sell a 65 percent controlling interest in the franchise to a Seattle group led by hedge-fund manager Chris Hansen and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, according to league sources.
Sources told ESPN.com that NBA teams were formally notified Sunday night that the Kings have been valued at $525 million and that the parties have executed a purchase agreement, which still requires league approval.
The agreement to transfer the 65 percent majority stake in the Kings to the Seattle group represents the 53 percent owned by the Maloofs and an additional 12 percent from minority owner Bob Hernreich. Sources said that there has not yet been an agreement submitted on the remaining 35 percent of the franchise, which is held by minority shareholders, not the Maloofs.
One source close to the process told ESPN.com’s J.A. Adande that the Maloof family, as it was hoping, will retain a “small piece” of minority interest in the franchise after its expected relocation to Seattle and renaming as the SuperSonics for next season. It’s believed, though, that the Maloofs will hold no decision-making power once control of the franchise is transferred.
The deal, according to sources familiar with the specifics, calls for the Maloofs to receive a non-refundable $30 million deposit from the Seattle group by Feb. 1. The NBA, furthermore, is fully expecting Hansen to apply for relocation to Seattle for the 2013-14 season by the league’s March 1 deadline, enabling the league’s board of governors to vote on the application at their annual April meeting.
But Sacramento officials are not surrendering their long-running bid to keep the franchise in the California capital. Mayor Kevin Johnson, formerly an NBA All-Star with the Phoenix Suns, continues to lobby NBA commissioner David Stern for the right to present a group of local owners who can match the Seattle offer and finally build a new arena in Sacramento directly to the Board of Governors.
“The mayor of Sacramento has asked me … could I come in and address the board of governors or the relocation committee?’” Stern said last week before the New York Knicks played theDetroit Pistons in London. “And I said, ‘Always.’ … Sacramento has been particularly supportive (as an NBA community since 1985 and is) always welcome to present.”
According to Yahoo! Sports, which reported earlier this month that the Maloofs were in serious talks with Hansen and Ballmer, Seattle’s plan calls for the Kings to play two seasons in the SuperSonics’ old home downtown at KeyArena while construction is completed on a new building.
Johnson, meanwhile, revealed last week that he had received approval from Stern to present a counteroffer to the league from buyers who would keep the team in Sacramento and said his city is in a “six-week sprint” to put together a proposal.
The sale price of $525 million, sources said, is regarded as an overall valuation of the franchise and also includes relocation fees.
Given the league’s desire to bring a halt to the long-running saga caused by the Kings’ uncertain future in Sacramento, as well as its hope of seeing NBA basketball return to Seattle before Stern’s scheduled exit from the league office in February 2014, approval of the move by the NBA relocation committee is widely considered to be a formality.
The committee features several current NBA owners and is chaired by Clay Bennett, who controversially moved the original Sonics to Oklahoma City in 2008, but left behind the team’s nickname and logo. Plans for a new $500 million arena in Seattle were approved in October.
Miami Heat star LeBron James took umbrage at news of the deal, tweeting: “So the Kings getting sold for 525M!! And the owners ain’t making no money huh? What the hell we have a (lockout) for. Get the hell out of here.”
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