Ailene Voisin, sports columnist
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  • HECTOR AMEZCUA / Bee file, 2012

    Mayor Kevin Johnson, left, and Kings co-owner Gavin Maloof were allies last February. The Maloofs still can achieve a win-win situation with Sacramento.

  • Ailene Voisin

Ailene Voisin: Maloofs wouldn't balk at matching offer, source says

Published: Friday, Apr. 12, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Saturday, Aug. 24, 2013 - 7:12 pm

The Maloofs are not people who sit patiently and quietly on the sidelines. The Kings' owners love fast food and fast cars, and right now, they are looking for the fastest exit out of Sacramento.

They want their money and they want to pursue another professional sports franchise in Major League Baseball or the NHL, hence their 5 p.m. deadline today for the Sacramento-based investors to submit a written matching offer for the Kings.

Seattle investors Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer have an agreement with the Maloofs to purchase a majority interest in the team for $341 million – including a $30 million nonrefundable deposit – and have applied to the league for relocation.

The NBA board of governors, made up of the 30 team owners, must approve all sales and relocations; only eight votes are needed to block a sale.

On Thursday, sources close to the Maloofs said that if the Sacramento group submits a matching offer that satisfies the league's other owners, they will embrace an outcome that keeps the Kings in Sacramento.

The league is expected to address the situation at the April 18-19 annual ownership meetings. Because of the complexity and unprecedented nature of the proceedings, however, with two legitimate groups bidding for one established team, league Commissioner David Stern has indicated the matter might not be resolved until later this month.

The duration of the process – coupled with the fluidity of the Sacramento group that includes Vivek Ranadive, Mark Mastrov, Paul Jacobs and Mark Friedman that has yet to deliver a formal bid – prompted the Maloofs on Wednesday to leak the ultimatum about today's deadline.

On Thursday, the sources said:

• An agreement that keeps the Kings in Sacramento must include reimbursement to Hansen for his $30 million nonrefundable deposit.

• Before being completely surprised by the size of the Hansen/Ballmer offer, the Maloofs had rejected overtures from Ron Burkle and Larry Ellison. Ellison would have attempted to relocate the Kings to San Jose.

• The Maloofs have met with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and have for months looked into buying a hockey franchise, with Las Vegas among the possible destinations. Their interests also have expanded and included opportunities in Major League Baseball.

While Kings fans remain angry about the family's repeated attempts to relocate the team – and, more recently, to sell and relocate – the Maloofs would prefer to avoid a scorched-earth departure from Sacramento, where they presided over several very successful seasons. For this to happen, the sources said, a counter offer must match the Hansen/Ballmer bid and give the NBA a reason to reject the sale.

"We're giving Sacramento every opportunity to keep the team," one source said Thursday, "but they keep blowing every deadline. We haven't seen anything in writing."

Though the NBA clearly wants another franchise in Seattle, which lost the Sonics to Oklahoma City five years ago after similar and protracted arena wranglings, the league is reluctant to abandon Sacramento for a number of reasons, including TV market size (20th), proven viability and history of fan support, potential for economic and population growth, and lack of competition (the Kings are the only major-league sports franchise in town).

Stern, in his final months as commissioner, has been intimately involved in several Sacramento arena incarnations and wants to avoid another franchise relocation. Since he became the league's highest-ranking executive in 1984, the San Diego Clippers, Kansas City Kings, Vancouver Grizzlies, Charlotte Hornets, Seattle Sonics and New Jersey Nets have relocated.

The results have been mixed. Some of those franchises have thrived in their new cities – the Clippers, Kings and Thunder, most notably – but the frequency of the relocations lends the perception of league instability and can lead to an inordinate number of problems, as illustrated by the Seattle-Sacramento ordeal.

"Just match the damn offer," one source vented out of frustration Thursday.

Clearly, the Maloofs are eager to move on.

Call The Bee's Ailene Voisin (916) 321-1208 and follow her on Twitter @ailene_voisin.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Ailene Voisin

Ailene Voisin, sports columnist

Ailene Voisin

Ailene Voisin was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. She earned a bachelor's degree in political science from UNLV and a law degree from the University of San Diego before committing full time to journalism.

Her career includes stops at the San Diego Union, Los Angeles Herald-Examiner and Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and time spent as the backup beat writer for Dodgers and Angels, Clippers and NBA beat writer, sports columnist, along with numerous assignments covering international events and the Olympics. Ailene joined The Sacramento Bee in 1997.

Phone: 916-321-1208
Twitter: @ailene_voisin

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