Preparing for a possible legal fight over the Sacramento Kings, the bankruptcy trustee who controls 7 percent of the team plans to bring in "special litigation counsel" to pursue claims that minority owners are being denied the right to match the purchase offer from Seattle.
Trustee David Flemmer has asked permission from the bankruptcy judge to hire the San Francisco law firm of Greenfield Sullivan Draa & Harrington to examine "possible claims arising from...the executed purchase and sale agreement" of the Kings, according to a court filing by Flemmer's attorney Don Fitzgerald.
A hearing on the matter is scheduled for Thursday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Sacramento.
The Maloof family has agreed to sell its 65 percent controlling interest to a Seattle group led by hedge fund manager Chris Hansen.
But Flemmer told The Bee last week he believes the Kings' limited partners have the legal right to match Hansen's offer.
Flemmer is preparing to auction the 7 percent share held by bankrupt developer Bob Cook in order to pay creditors' claims. Preserving the legal right to match Hansen's offer would make the 7 percent share considerably more valuable, Flemmer said.
The Maloofs and Hansen consider the limited partners' objections "a non-issue," according to a source familiar with the Seattle transaction.
Still, litigation could interfere with the Seattle group's plans to have the deal approved by the NBA's Board of Governors in mid-April. The Hansen group wants to move the team to Seattle next season.
"A delay doesn't work well with the NBA's calendar," said Michael McCann, a sports law expert at the University of New Hampshire. "If this is still unresolved in April, the NBA could be less inclined to vote (on the Hansen purchase) and that could delay the move for at least a year."