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  • HECTOR AMEZCUA / hamezcua@sacbee.com

  • Ted S. Warren / Associated Press file, 2012

    How many moves are left for Chris Hansen, right, leader of a bid to buy the Kings and move them to a new Seattle arena?

Questions remain about Kings' fate

Published: Wednesday, May. 1, 2013 - 4:47 pm
Last Modified: Thursday, Jun. 20, 2013 - 3:38 pm

A committee of NBA owners declared that the Kings should stay in Sacramento. The man who wants to move the team to Seattle has vowed to keep pressing his case.

Two weeks before the NBA board of governors is scheduled to decide the Kings' future once and for all, basketball fans in Sacramento have reason to be confused and a little anxious. Considerable maneuvering is taking place behind the scenes, involving the Maloof family, the competing investor groups from Seattle and Sacramento, and top executives of the NBA. It's not clear what will happen when the board of governors meets May 15.

The NBA relocation committee voted 7-0 to reject the move to Seattle. Doesn't that pretty much settle things?

Not necessarily. The committee recommendation has to be ratified by the 30-member board of governors. Seattle's lead investor, hedge fund manager Chris Hansen, announced he has "numerous options at our disposal and … absolutely no plans to give up."

What can Hansen do?

He could try to persuade the board to ignore the committee recommendation. If he can get 16 of 30 votes, he can move the team. But he also needs a supermajority of 23 votes to get his purchase approved.

Why would the board go along with him?

Seattle is a bigger and wealthier market than Sacramento. Hansen and his partner, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, have offered the Maloofs more money than Sacramento's investors – about $16 million more. And unlike Sacramento's group, he has a signed deal with the Maloofs, who control 65 percent of the team.

Hansen and Ballmer – why would the NBA committee reject such a strong ownership group?

So far, technically speaking, it hasn't. The committee voted on relocation. A separate finance advisory committee, in charge of vetting new owners, hasn't weighed in yet on Hansen's purchase offer.

Why no recommendation yet from that committee?

Under NBA rules, the relocation committee had to issue its recommendation at least a week before the board of governors vote. The finance advisory committee can wait until right before the May 15 vote.

Beyond that, top NBA executives probably are hoping that Hansen simply withdraws his bid before the finance advisory committee votes, according to sports law expert Michael McCann.

Why?

The NBA doesn't want to outright reject Hansen and Ballmer, a group that Commissioner David Stern described in a PBS interview Tuesday as the "perfect prototype for an NBA owner."

Also, if they back out before a vote, McCann says it weakens their legal position if they decide to sue the NBA for breaking up their deal with the Maloofs (McCann quickly adds that he doubts Hansen and Ballmer would sue anyway).

Could the board of governors approve Hansen-Ballmer as owners without letting them move the team?

Theoretically, yes. Reuters, citing an anonymous source "close to the proposed deal," reported late Tuesday that the Hansen group could try to pull off such a scenario. Hansen would pledge to work in good faith with Sacramento officials on a new arena and would agree only to move the team if the arena project failed and attendance slipped below a certain threshold.

Would the NBA agree to that?

Doubtful, given Hansen's numerous public pledges to bring basketball back to Seattle. "He'd have to, in short order, persuade the NBA and the city of Sacramento" of his sincerity, McCann said.

Why does the relocation committee want to keep the team in Sacramento anyway?

Despite the obvious wealth in Seattle, league executives have taken note of Sacramento's track record – 19 seasons of sellouts in 28 years – and think new ownership and a new arena could revive the franchise. The city's willingness to contribute a $258 million arena subsidy likely played a major role.

Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver told PBS on Tuesday that while Seattle offers "the potential to generate more revenue," there are good reasons to stick with Sacramento. "If you look at total value over time, brand building, community support – that continuity is important," he said.

Hansen-Ballmer already raised their bid once. Could they blow away the NBA by raising it again?

That's an option. But McCann, a contributor to NBA TV, said it's possible that Stern could block the higher bid on the grounds that "it's a matter that's already in process and can't be changed."

Vivek Ranadive and the other Sacramento bidders have been quiet the past few days. What can they do?

They want to nail down a deal with the Maloofs prior to the May 15 vote. "We hope to be in a position at that point where our ownership group gets approved," Mayor Kevin Johnson said Tuesday. NBA executives want that as well.

Why is that important?

Having a signed agreement between the Maloofs and Ranadive – as a backup to the Hansen deal – would simplify things considerably. The board of governors could vote on the Hansen deal, if he hasn't backed away. If it votes down Hansen, it would then turn its attention to Ranadive's deal.

The Maloofs would sell to Ranadive's group, right?

By all accounts, the Maloofs are tired of the NBA, and the feeling is mutual. So it seems likely that the Maloofs would do business with Ranadive if the Hansen deal vanishes.

But the Maloofs disparaged Ranadive's offer in a letter to the NBA two weeks ago, questioning whether the Palo Alto tech executive has the money to make a deal happen. At the time, Ranadive was offering $341 million, or $16 million less than Hansen.

Could the NBA force the Maloofs to sell?

No.

The NBA has said an expansion team isn't in the cards. Does Hansen have any other options if he loses the Kings?

He could go elsewhere for a team. Officials in another vulnerable NBA city, Milwaukee, already are nervous that their Bucks could be lured to Seattle. The Bucks, like the Kings, play in an antiquated arena, and Mayor Tom Barrett told the Milwaukee Business Journal on Tuesday that "we need to be proactive" on an arena deal.

Call The Bee's Dale Kasler, (916) 321-1066. Follow him on Twitter @dakasler.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.



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