While Sacramento will get a final shot to convince NBA owners that this is not something they want to approve, sources have told ProBasketballTalk that Seattle’s Chris Hansen is ready to announce a tentative agreement to purchase the Sacramento Kings in the coming days.
Following this come reports other teams have been notified of a sale, something PBT can confirm. The sale price is $525 million of which the new owners will get 65 percent.
Adrian Wojnarowski reported a week ago a deal between the Maloof family and Hansen was “at first and goal from the one,” and furthermore that the Kings moving to Seattle was a done deal. That report had been echoed by CSN Bay Area’s Matt Steinmetz and David Aldridge of NBA.com, though each reporter left a little wiggle room in case the Maloofs changed their minds.
According to our sources, any deal sending the Kings to Seattle would not be a done deal because any deal would be subject to an approval by the NBA’s Board of Governors. In addition, sources tell PBT that Sacramento has been approached by at least three groups of “heavy hitters.” Sacramento could be getting close to announcing a group that meets NBA criteria that has the “vision to transform one of the NBA’s most proven markets into a top NBA franchise.” This, they believe, will help win the NBA’s support for keeping the Kings in Sacramento.
As we’ve followed this story for the last two years, the city of Sacramento has bent over backwards to accommodate the Maloofs according to sources from all sides of the situation. One league source called their offer of public funds to build an arena for the Maloofs a “model offer of public funds,” and the NBA itself supported the failed deal from last year that the embattled Maloof family backed out of.
Since reports of the Kings’ move to Seattle have hit the net from very reputable sources, Sacramento has been firing on all cylinders in what has been a long-term initiative to respond in the event the Maloof family was willing to sell the team. Indeed, sources close to the situation in the California capitol have told PBT that preparing for this contingency has been a prime focus of the city, and that when it comes time to present Sacramento’s offer to the Board of Governors that they believe it will be a compelling and competitive offer.
It will be up to the Board of Governors — made up of the 29 other NBA owners — to make that determination.
We reported in September that Seattle’s Chris Hansen would need to put up more money to beat Sacramento’s offer, and that is one of the main sources of the city’s confidence according to sources speaking on condition of anonymity.
We calculated that an offer from Sacramento of $425-450 million for the overall price of the Kings franchise would put more money in the Maloofs’ pockets than the reported $525 million offer from Hansen, because a Sacramento owner would not need to worry about the Maloofs’ outstanding loan to Sacramento (~$75 million). The city also doesn’t have to worry about the league’s relocation fee, which was $30 million when the Sonics moved to Oklahoma City and became the Thunder, although the Board of Governors can set that fee at whatever level they wish. USA Today’s Sam Amick confirmed Sacramento’s target offer in his exclusive interview with Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson last week.
The biggest point in Sacramento’s favor according to sources is the “model offer” of public funds itself, an offer that was in excess of $200 million in a California climate that normally doesn’t support public funds for sports facilities.
Sources close to the situation tell PBT that this, along with the league’s fear of another Sonicsgate, will be the deciding factors should Sacramento be able to provide an actionable offer that is competitive with Seattle.
The Maloofs themselves have reached the point where they have to sell the team, something that doesn’t really help their leverage. Their financial struggles are well documented and in May they asked their minority owners for a $10 million cash call. Along with the threat of having a lame duck year in Sacramento, nobody with knowledge of the situation has said that there is a realistic chance that the family decides not to sell.
This means that this story is coming to a head, and if the Board of Governors pushes the Maloofs toward the Sacramento offer they will have to listen. Because a Sacramento offer can put the same type of dollars in the family’s pockets, sources in Sacramento like the city’s chances to pull this out.
Favoring Seattle is the fact they have a larger television market than Sacramento (Seattle is 14th, Sacramento is 20th), and that a relocation fee assessed to Seattle could put money in each owners’ pockets, but Sacramento isn’t without ammunition here. They have no competition from other sports teams and have a long and storied history of supporting their franchise. They are also arguably further along in their arena building process, as Seattle is still facing two relatively toothless lawsuits and an environmental review while Sacramento’s arena deal was ready for approval last year. In addition, as SB Nation’s Tom Ziller points out, there are several reasons that expansion could benefit the league and owners would also benefit from an expansion fee in that case as well, which would theoretically give the Hansen group a better price point to join the club.
Sacramento has been working for a long time and has not been caught off guard by the Maloofs’ intentions to sell. As long as Mayor Kevin Johnson can deliver the package he has been foreshadowing, it will be up to the league to decide whether or not they want to turn their back on Sacramento.
As usual, it comes down to showing the league the money. Fortunately for Sacramento, this is something that Mayor Johnson has a great track record with.
Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson will reportedly get that chance, but he’s going to have to convince the owners to reject a deal put before them. While those same owners did that in the case of a proposed Kings move to Anaheim, this may be a tougher pitch for Sacramento.