This was the expected outcome after a committee of owners unanimously recommended to kill the move — and while Seattle upped their bid to try and buy the team, it was not enough.
The NBA owners voted Wednesday to reject an application to move the Kings to Seattle, something announced by NBA Commissioner David Stern. He said the vote was 22-8 against relocation (Seattle needed a majority). The news was first reported by Sam Amick of the USA Today .
“We will talk to the Mallofs (the family that owns the Kings) and seek in the next 24 to 48 hours whether we can help facilitate an agreement to be signed between the Ranadive group (the Sacramento counter bid) and the Maloofs for the sale of the franchise in Sacramento,” Stern said. “Let me say the Seattle presentation was brisk, firm, excellent and reflects the effort s that were put into this and the extraordinary ownership group they have put together….
“(It was recommended to the owners) if the Sacramento could produce a site, a construction team, a financially strong ownership group, and the kind of support by the city and the region that Major (Kevin) Johnson has galvanized, the appropriate outcome was to keep the team in Sacramento. And that’s what they did.”
The Maloof family, which owns the Kings, had an agreement with a group out of Seattle led by Chris Hansen and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer (who was not at the Board of Governors meeting in Dallas) and while technically this doesn’t block that sale it does in practice — Hansen’s group does not want to own a team in Sacramento.
The Maloofs had worked to avoid selling the team to this Sacramento group, but Stern said he “anticipates they will come to be open” to selling to the group now. Basically because they are out of options.
While the Seattle group had proposed a “backup plan” of buying a minority portion of the team, that is not going to fly with the other owners. However, the only vote was on the relocation, not the sale of the team.
Stern said he wanted to keep an open dialogue with the Seattle group, but they do not have “anything concrete to report” about a team moving there.
When asked about the idea of expansion, Stern said the owners thought that was a topic to discuss after the next national television package is signed. The League wants to get that new deal done this summer.
The Maloofs do not have to sell the team, but they are essentially considered too cash poor to run the franchise. They are going to sell. And the only good option on the table will be the alternative group brought forward by Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and led by Silicon Valley billionaire Vivek Ranadive. That group put an offer out matching the original Seattle offer (a $525 franchise valuation), and that group also is working on plans for a new arena in downtown Sacramento.
There is a lot of frustration in Seattle — they felt screwed over by the league five years ago and this decision felt like that wound was opened again. While down the road it may be possible to bring the political and economic forces together again to buy a team and get an arena built, it would be a hard sell right now.
“This was not an anti-Seattle vote, this was a pro-Sacramento vote,” Stern said.