John Minchillo / Associated Press file, 2011

NBA Commissioner David Stern will allow Mayor Kevin Johnson to present an offer to the league to compete with a possible deal by a Seattle group.

Mayor Kevin Johnson assembles Sacramento bidders for Kings

Published: Friday, Jan. 18, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Friday, Jan. 18, 2013 - 9:00 pm

As another day passed without a deal to move the Kings to Seattle, the focus at Sacramento City Hall on Thursday was on putting together a group of local business leaders to be part of a potential ownership group committed to keeping the franchise here.

That recruitment process has been among Mayor Kevin Johnson's priorities this week, said Jeff Dorso, who is leading the mayor's Think Big arena task force.

Dorso said those local partners are expected to be organized and their names revealed next week.

In the meantime, NBA Commissioner David Stern told reporters in London that he was unaware of a deal by the Maloof family to sell the Kings to a group led by Seattle hedge-fund manager Chris Hansen.

Speaking at a news conference before a game featuring the New York Knicks and Detroit Pistons, Stern said "there's been lots of speculation" regarding the possible sale.

"The one thing we do know is that no purchase and sale agreement has been submitted to (the league)," Stern said. "And we assume if one were going to be executed the next thing they would do is submit it to us."

Stern added: "We are more or less in a series of communications. But right now, we don't know anything in terms of actionable plans."

Stern did say that both Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and Hansen have spoken to NBA officials about their interest in bringing the NBA back to Seattle after the 2008 departure of the SuperSonics to Oklahoma City.

The commissioner also said he welcomed Johnson's request to address the league's board of governors in the face of a possible Seattle deal, saying, "Sacramento has been particularly supportive" of the NBA.

The board of governors, comprising the league's 30 owners, would ultimately decide whether to grant a Kings sale to Hansen and a request to move the team to Seattle.

Johnson is assembling a counteroffer to Hansen and plans to deliver that pitch to the league. That pitch will likely include a deep-pocketed owner committed to keeping the team in Sacramento and helping to build a new downtown arena.

A local presence on that ownership group is also being assembled to take on a visible role in the process. Those local owners are not expected to contribute the majority of the hundreds of millions of dollars it will take to make a successful bid to keep the Kings here.

The mayor and his advisers have held meetings all week trying to put together a plan to keep the Kings. Johnson skipped a U.S. Conference of Mayors event in Washington, D.C., where he was a featured speaker, to continue working on the plan.

Developer David Taylor said this week he was interested in playing a role in keeping the team here. Taylor had been signed on as the developer for the downtown railyard arena that was planned last year. That proposal collapsed after the Maloofs backed out of a tentative financing agreement.

Taylor said he is interested in taking part both in an arena plan and in a local ownership presence for the Kings.

Sleep Train executive Dale Carlsen, whose company has the naming rights to the Kings' current arena, has also expressed interest in being part of a local ownership group.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Ryan Lillis



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