With the seconds ticking toward NBA approval of a Kings sale in April, at least one more suitor for the Kings is trying to make his move.
Sacramento Kings minority owner John Kehriotis has contacted team majority owners, the Maloof family, in recent days about submitting what's being described as a "back-up" offer to them to buy the team, if the Maloofs' current sales deal with a Seattle group falls through, several sources said.
Kehriotis told the Bee this week it's too early to discuss his plans. A spokesman for the Maloofs also declined comment. But a person familiar with the situation said the Maloofs would accept "back-up offers" to the Hansen agreement.
Any new offer, including one from the investor group being assembled by Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, "would have to be a back-up offer to the definitive agreement between the Hansen-Ballmer group and the Maloofs," that source said.
The Seattle deal, signed several weeks ago by the Maloofs, must be ratified by a three-quarters majority vote of the National Basketball Association Board of Governors. That vote is tentatively set for April 18.
Until then, the Maloofs have an exclusive agreement with the Seattle group that prohibits them from entering into negotiations with anyone else offering a competing or counter offer. Should the Seattle deal fall through, the Maloofs would be free to negotiate with other potential buyers, if they chose to do so.
Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson is promoting his own alternative set of buyers. He is expected to announce tomorrow or Friday a proposal from a group led by Southern California billionaire Ron Burkle and by 24 Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov. The city would negotiate with that group on plans for a downtown arena, which would require the city to contribute a substantial sum.
The mayor's office has not responded to Bee phone calls asking if the mayor has talked with Kehriotis or supports Kehriotis' effort.
Councilmembers Steve Cohn and Kevin McCarty said they have spoken with Kehriotis this week, and said the 12.5 percent-share owner of the team believes that he legally has a right, as a minority owner, to counter any offer made by the Seattle group.
Notably, though, Kehriotis told the council members he instead is working on a back-up offer that he would submit directly to the Maloofs. Cohn said Kehriotis said he has $350 million in hand to buy the team, essentially matching the amount the Seattle group has offered the Maloofs. He is still trying to put together another $400 million to finance a new arena in Natomas, next to the Sleep Train Arena site, without a major city subsidy, other than a donation of the city's 100 acres at the site.
Cohn said he has doubts about whether Kehriotis can pull together a bid, but he is intrigued.
"I have no idea whether there is meat to his plan," Cohn said. "If he can pull that off, we can save ourselves a lot of money. I'm skeptical."
Councilman Kevin McCarty has asked the city manager to talk with Kehriotis. "I feel this is a path we ought to consider, because it does not include a huge public subsidy," McCarty said.
The possibility that Kehriotis and other limited partners could have the right to match Hansen's offer to the Maloofs - rather than simply offer a back-up plan - remains an intriguing subplot to the Kings story.
The bankruptcy trustee auctioning off Bob Cook's 7 percent share of the team has said he thinks the Maloofs are ignoring the limited partners' rights to buy the team. But so far the trustee hasn't pressed that case in court.
NBA Commissioner David Stern has said he doesn't think the so-called right of first refusal is a major issue.