David Stern continues to provide cover for the Maloof brothers — the owners of the Sacramento Kings — to get out of Dodge if they so choose.
Meeting with the media Saturday, Stern confirmed that the Maloofs and representatives of the Honda Center in Anaheim have talked. That representative would be Henry Samueli, the owner of the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks, even though Stern did not name him.
Stern did not say where those talks stood, dodging that part of the question a couple times (saying nobody has told him where things stand).
But Stern did say the league is done trying to help Sacramento get an arena — they are on their own.
“All I’ll say is that we and they have tried very hard over the years to see whether a new building could be built (in Sacramento), and with the collapse of the last attempt — which took a few years and several million dollars on behalf of the league — I said we are not going to spend any more time on that,” Stern said. “That is for the Maloofs and the people of Sacramento.”
The reports are that Samueli — one of the co-founders of Broadcom and worth an estimated $1.7 billion — would get an ownership stake in the team and help wipe out a lot of the debt the Maloofs have built up, according to reports. The Honda Center building itself in Anaheim is NBA ready and Samueli has said he wants an NBA team there.
Still there are a lot of issues (starting with having to pay both the Lakers and Clippers steep relocation fees to move into their market, something that could tip the economic scales against this move.) This move remains a longshot at best. But the sides at least talked, and if the Maloofs want cover, Stern is happy to provide it for them.
With the latest stadium deal now dead in Sacramento, it doesn’t take much to get people in certain other markets dreaming of the NBA in their home town. Pictures of DeMarcus Cousins dominating in the paint and Tyreke Evans getting treatment for plantar fasciitis in their city fill the minds of young children with NBA dreams.
Along those lines, interesting article in the Orange Country Register Monday connecting the dots between the Sacramento Kings owners, Joe and Gavin Maloof, and the Honda Center in Anaheim. Or the HP Pavilion in San Jose.
The relocation rumors revved up again Friday when Bloomberg News Service reported that two private investment firms are negotiating to acquire a controlling interest in the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas, also owned by the Maloofs, after the family violated its loan covenants.
If the Maloofs are having significant financial problems — the Sacramento Bee reports that in 2009 the family sold its original beer distributorship in New Mexico for more than $100 million and that there also were staff layoffs in the Kings organization and at The Palms — then perhaps there is a greater sense of urgency to move the franchise to a market with better demographics, more potential corporate sponsors and an NBA-ready arena.
That’s where Anaheim comes in. If the Maloofs decide to move the Kings — or are forced to sell a team struggling on the court (NBA-worst 8-25 record) and struggling at the gate (29th out of 30 in home attendance) — Anaheim and San Jose are believed to be the most likely destinations because they both have NBA-quality arenas and waiting billionaires to help them overcome financial obstacles.
The billionaire in San Jose is Larry Ellison, he of Oracle and trying to buy the Warriors and Hornets.
In Anaheim that is Henry Samueli, the owner of the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks and the guy booking the Honda Center. He is one of the co-founders of Broadcom and while his net worth has taken a tumble in this economy he is still worth an estimated $1.7 billion according to Forbes. Which wouldn’t suck.
Samueli has said he would love an NBA team in the building. He helps the Maloofs out financially with a partial ownership stake, they get a good arena deal at the Honda Center and… there are some dots.
We’re a long way from being able to connect all of them. The financial situation of the Maloofs may be overstated, for one. Times are not good in Vegas but we don’t know the details. More importantly, at least publicly the Maloofs are not trying to move out of Sacramento.
But if the time comes — and it might — those dots might start to fill in.
Under mayor Kevin Johnson — yes, former Suns player Kevin Johnson — there has been a renewed effort in Sacramento to find a way to build a new arena that would keep the Kings in town.
But the latest and best in a while plan — a complex swap of the ARCO Arena land with the Cal Expo land in the city — has fallen through, as Tom Ziller explains well over at FanHouse. This was a bold and complex deal that just wasn’t to the taste of a more conservative Expo board.
So we’re back to square one, with ideas but ones in the relatively early stages.
ARCO Arena is 22 years old and was built before the economics of NBA arenas (really all sports buildings) shifted. Luxury suites and the high-end seats (which can come with wait staff, access to private clubs and more) are what drives the revenue in today’s market. Those “real fans” up in the cheap seats matter as a fan base, but it’s the luxury boxes that make most of the money. Owners need that revenue to really be profitable, to really compete.
The Maloof brothers have stepped back from direct involvement and have let an NBA consultant handle the new arena for them.
But they have options. Kansas City has a new arena and a thirst for a team. Anaheim’s Honda Center (called the Ponda by fans as it used to be the Pond) opened five years after ARCO but with rows of luxury boxes, along with plenty of corporate headquarters in surrounding Orange County.
The Maloofs have options. They have said they don’t want to move out of Sacramento, but they also want to pay for a new arena all on their own. And they have leverage.
If they make their announcement by March 31, 2011, they could be playing the season after next in a new city in a new arena. That is real leverage. And real pressure on Johnson and the people in Sacramento trying to keep them.