If the Kings leave Sacramento for Anaheim, billionaire Henry Samueli will be a big reason why.
He's a scientist, businessman, philanthropist and basketball junkie. The day he bought the Anaheim Ducks hockey team six years ago, he said, "I would love to lure an NBA franchise."
Now he's trying to wrap up negotiations with the Kings' owners, the Maloof family, on a deal to move the team to the Honda Center, which Samueli manages.
Neither side will comment on the talks. But Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson says he thinks the team is probably going to leave. The Maloofs have until April 18 to ask the NBA for permission to move.
Anaheim has made overtures to the Kings before, said co-owner Joe Maloof. And the Kings are just the latest in a series of NBA teams that have looked seriously at moving to Anaheim since the arena opened in 1993.
But Samueli's presence makes it more likely Anaheim will succeed this time.
Before he bought the Ducks, the hockey team was owned by Walt Disney Co.
Disney called the team the Mighty Ducks, after the hit movie, and fiercely protected the team's interests like any other Disney brand. Although the team was just a tenant of the city-owned arena, a favorable lease gave Disney a grip on crucial revenue streams from the building's luxury suites, advertising and more.
The result: NBA teams looked but went elsewhere.
"We talked to several teams, we talked to everybody," said Lou Lopez, who served on the City Council from 1994 to 1998. "Every time we'd negotiate with a team, they'd say, 'We're not going to make any money.' "
The Vancouver Grizzlies ran into the Disney effect in 2001. They were planning to move and gave Anaheim a serious look. But after talks with Disney stalled, the team moved to Memphis.
"Disney has very strong opinions," said former Grizzlies executive Andy Dolich. "We would have controlled a small amount of revenue."
If Samueli had been in charge then, "I think there would have been more flexibility," Dolich said.
Anaheim's arena was designed with the NBA in mind. The city's contract with Ogden Entertainment, the firm initially hired to manage the arena, obligated Anaheim to land a team by 1998. When it failed, the city had to pay Ogden a $7.5 million fee.
The fee was a painful reminder of Anaheim's NBA frustration.
The city and Ogden talked to several teams over the years, including the Los Angeles Clippers, the Grizzlies and the Charlotte Hornets, to no avail.
Disney's lease wasn't the only issue keeping Anaheim out of the NBA. Sometimes fate played a role, as when the Clippers were on the verge of moving to Anaheim in 1996.
"Ogden told us they thought the Clippers would move," said former Mayor Tom Daly.
But at the last minute, the Clippers called it off. One reason, according to media reports at the time: Clippers owner Donald Sterling didn't want to commute from his Beverly Hills home.
Circumstances changed in 2003. Ogden went bankrupt, and Samueli took over the contract to run the arena.
Samueli was co-founder of Broadcom Corp., a $6.8 billion-a-year maker of chips for cell phones and a major force in Orange County.
"They're really a cutting-edge company here in Orange County," said Ed Merino, an Irvine business consultant. Samueli's profile flew even higher when he bought the Ducks from Disney for $75 million in 2005.
With dual control over the arena and the team, he gave Anaheim a clearer shot at the NBA. Samueli said the chance to bring in a basketball team was "one of the secondary motives" for buying the Ducks.
Just a year after that purchase, Samueli looked into buying the Seattle SuperSonics, who were stuck in a bad arena. But the Sonics had several years left on their lease, and Samueli didn't want to deal with that. The team moved to Oklahoma City.
Back in Anaheim, Samueli removed the name "Mighty" from the Ducks' name and turned them into winners. They captured the Stanley Cup championship in 2007.
Then Samueli's career faltered. Broadcom was accused of manipulating stock options. Samueli pleaded guilty to a criminal charge of making false statements to investigators.
He resigned as Broadcom's chairman and took a leave of absence as chief technical officer. The National Hockey League suspended him.
But in late 2009 a federal judge threw out his guilty plea and all the criminal charges. The judge said the statements Samueli made to investigators were too vague to justify criminal charges.
His name cleared, Samueli returned to Broadcom and the Ducks.
"It has enabled him to take a higher profile," said Merino, the consultant. "There are no criminal activities hanging over his head."