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  • Gregory Payan

    KeyArena reportedly would serve as a temporary home if the Kings were to move to Seattle. Hedge-fund manager Chris Hansen has a tentative deal to build an arena if he can land a team.

  • JOSÉ LUIS VILLEGAS / jvillegas@sacbee.com

    Mayor Kevin Johnson talks to Sacramento media Wednesday, saying he wants the Maloof family to consider selling to someone who will keep the Kings in the capital. He said he has talked previously with potential buyers. A rumored offer from Seattle includes a plan to build a $490 million arena in the former NBA city.

  • JOSÉ LUIS VILLEGAS / jvillegas@sacbee.com

    Mayor Kevin Johnson leaves a City Hall media gathering Wednesday. He said calls to the Maloofs and NBA Commissioner David Stern went unanswered.

  • JOSÉ LUIS VILLEGAS / Bee file, 2011

    The Maloof brothers, from left, George, Gavin and Joe: The waffling family that owns the Kings hasn't endeared itself to Sacramento and the city's loyal fans.

More Information

  • Sacramento Connect: This poisonous relationship can't save us, won't be the end of us
  • Sacramento Connect: Maloofs show their smarts as owners
  • Interactive timeline: Arco Arena
  • Man who wants to buy Kings was longtime Sonics fan
  • Sacramento Kings sale reports are premature, say sources
  • Ailene Voisin: Maloofs owe Sacramento a chance to keep Kings
  • Marcos Breton: Blame it all on the Maloofs
  • Jack Ohman: A sell-out crowd
  • RECENT NBA SALES

    2012: New Orleans Hornets, $338 million
    2012: Memphis Grizzlies, $377 million
    2011: Detroit Pistons, $325 million
    2011: Philadelphia 76ers, $280 million
    2010: Golden State Warriors, $450 million
    2010: Charlotte Bobcats, $204 million
    2010: New Jersey Nets, $200 million
    – Bee researcher Pete Basofin

    ROLLER COASTER

    May 3, 2011
    "At the end of the day, we felt we should go back and give it one more try (in Sacramento)."
    – George Maloof, announcing the Kings were not moving to Anaheim.

    May 31, 2011
    "It's time for everyone to get on board. It's time, after a decade of talk and of work, to finally get this done for the future of our great region."
    – Sen. Darrell Steinberg, co-chair of a commission charged with devising a financing plan for a new Sacramento arena.

    Feb. 21, 2012
    "There's a belief that Sacramento will either save its team or that team will move. That puts it front and center."
    – Brian Robinson, president of Arena Solution, a group working to get an arena built in Seattle.

    Feb. 22, 2012
    "We're really close to pulling this off. We're closer than we've ever been before."
    – Mayor Kevin Johnson, announcing that a plan to finance a new Sacramento arena was within reach.

    Feb. 27, 2012
    "I think it is a fair deal. We gave a lot. Everybody had to give. Sometimes you have to take chances, and we think this is worth taking."
    – George Maloof, reacting to an agreement between the Kings and Sacramento on a financing plan for a $387 million arena.

    March 6, 2012
    "This is much more than a vote for an arena or for keeping the Sacramento Kings in our city. It's also a vote about your vision and hopes for our city and our region."
    – Sacramento City Manager John Shirey, describing the City Council's 7-2 approval of the arena financing plan.

    April 13, 2012
    "I wish I had better news. (The Maloofs) are now saying they don't want to do the deal, which essentially means they don't want to be in Sacramento."
    – Mayor Kevin Johnson, commenting on news the Maloofs had pulled out of the arena deal.

    Aug. 23, 2012
    "The franchise is not going to discuss which cities have approached the organization and are not going to comment on every rumor."
    – Kings officials, responding to reports the team was in secret talks with Comcast-Spectacor about a move to Virginia Beach.

    Jan. 8, 2013
    "I reach out to the Maloofs on a regular basis. The dialogue is open. We're here, we have an arena deal downtown that is ready to be signed if they want to do it."
    – Kevin Johnson, reacting to news that Virginia Beach officials had halted their bid for the Kings.

    Jan. 9, 2013
    "I want the community to know that we're going to fight like crazy to get to where we need to be."
    – Kevin Johnson, reacting to reports of a potential sale of the Kings to a Seattle group.

    SEATTLE MEDIA LINKS

    Seattle Times
    Seattle PI
    KING 5 TV
    KIRO 7 TV
    KOMO News TV

Seattle residents wary of talk of Kings' move

Published: Friday, Jan. 11, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1A
Last Modified: Monday, Sep. 23, 2013 - 8:09 am

SEATTLE – There were no rallies or parades in Seattle on Thursday to celebrate the city's potential return to the NBA.

As news spread that a Seattle group was negotiating to buy the Sacramento Kings and move the team there next season, residents took a wait-and-see attitude, wary of getting too giddy about a deal that appears far from complete.

"Until it advances past gossip stage, I don't want to get excited," said Brian Robinson, a real estate investor who has led a citizens' effort to bring the NBA back to Seattle since the SuperSonics left in 2008.

Sacramento officials have pledged to find competing bidders who would keep the team in Sacramento, with the possibilities including billionaire supermarket tycoon Ron Burkle, who has tried to buy the team before.

NBA Commissioner David Stern, speaking Thursday in Washington, D.C., said it would be reasonable to give Burkle a shot at matching Seattle's offer, according to a USA Today post on Twitter. Burkle's partner, Sacramento lobbyist Darius Anderson, declined comment Thursday.

Meanwhile, a source close to the Kings' owners, the Maloofs, continued to insist that talks about a proposed sale to the Seattle group were still in the early stages.

With the Sonics' departure for Oklahoma City still a bitter topic, Seattle officials treated the situation delicately. Mayor Mike McGinn declined to speak about the matter Thursday, as did a spokesman for Chris Hansen, the hedge-fund manager trying to buy the team.

The neighborhood around KeyArena, which would serve as the team's temporary home, was mostly quiet – except for the Sacramento reporters milling around. The buzz on sports talk radio was mainly about the Seahawks' NFL playoff game this weekend.

Feeding the go-slow attitude was the reputation of the Maloofs, who angered many Kings fans when they abandoned a tentative deal for a new arena in Sacramento last spring.

Seattle fans are "proceeding with caution," said Steve Sandmeyer, host of an afternoon sports-talk show on radio station 1090 The Fan. "They're aware the Maloofs have taken Sacramento on a roller-coaster ride."

As if on cue, the Seattle Times reported on its website Thursday afternoon that a potential snag had developed in the talks between the Maloofs and Hansen. Quoting unnamed NBA sources, the Times said the Maloofs, who would reportedly retain a small ownership piece in the team, were seeking an operational role as well.

Talk of a Kings move to Seattle exploded Wednesday on the Internet, one day after the financially struggling team ended discussions to move to Virginia Beach, Va.

Yahoo Sports reported that a Seattle deal was nearly done, with Hansen buying the team for a league-record $500 million.

A day later, a source close to the Maloofs told The Bee that the family hasn't heard from Hansen since just after Christmas – and is still waiting to receive an actual offer.

"I fully expect we will see something (from Hansen)," said the source, who was not authorized to speak publicly.

He added that the Maloofs haven't heard from any other potential bidders – even though Mayor Kevin Johnson said Wednesday he's aware of several groups interested in buying the Kings and keeping them in Sacramento.

Johnson said Wednesday that he has "stayed in constant contact" with Burkle, whose effort to buy the Kings nearly two years ago was rebuffed by the Maloofs.

Another potential candidate is downtown developer David Taylor, who told the mayor's office a few months ago he had been contacted by a group interested in building a new arena and possibly buying an ownership stake in the team. Asked if that group is still interested, Taylor declined comment Thursday.

The mayor on Wednesday said he would "make every effort" to find new owners to keep the team from moving. He couldn't be reached for comment Thursday.

Sacramento developer Larry Kelley, who held a minor equity stake in the team during the 1990s, said he wouldn't be surprised if two of the current minority owners – the Benvenuti family or developer John Kehriotis – stepped into the fray. The two own a combined 27 percent.

"All you'd have to do is buy the Maloofs' interest," Kelley said. The Maloofs control 53 percent of the team.

Richard Benvenuti said his family wasn't interested. Kehriotis declined comment.

Johnson said a local buyer could enjoy, in effect, a hometown discount because he wouldn't have to pay upward of $100 million in moving expenses, including a relocation fee to the NBA and repayment of a loan to the city of Sacramento.

The NBA's board of governors, made up of league owners, would have to approve any ownership sale or franchise relocation. The Kings have until March 1 to seek permission for a move for next season.

The source associated with the Maloofs said the family still hasn't made up its mind to sell. But he said the family's recent financial setbacks, including the loss of controlling interest in the Palms Casino in Las Vegas, have prodded its members to become more open to the idea of unloading the Kings.

If Hansen makes an offer "that knocks our socks off … then the debate will begin internally," this source said.

He added that brothers Joe and Gavin Maloof, along with their mother, Colleen, aren't convinced the team should be sold. But their brother George is more interested in a sale, the source said.

Hansen has the backing of Microsoft executive Steve Ballmer and the Nordstrom family – as well as a tentative agreement with the city and King County on a $490 million arena. He would rebrand the team the Sonics and revive the Seattle franchise's green and gold uniforms.

Even as Seattle fans warmed to the idea of the NBA's return, they expressed sympathy for Kings followers in Sacramento.

"Of course, we never want to treat another fan base the way we were treated," said Adam Brown, who produced a documentary called "Sonicsgate" that detailed the Sonics' departure after 41 seasons. "But if they're going to move anyway, we want it to be to Seattle. That's how we justify it."

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.



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