José Luis Villegas / jvillegas@sacbee.com

Bee file 2013. Fans yell one more time at the season finale.

Miami Heat owner praises Sacramento effort to keep Kings

Published: Thursday, May. 9, 2013 - 3:20 pm
Last Modified: Friday, Aug. 16, 2013 - 10:30 pm

Explaining why the NBA's relocation committee recommended against moving the Kings to Seattle, one of the league's most influential owners says Sacramento did everything necessary to keep the team.

Miami Heat owner Micky Arison, in a Twitter exchange with a Seattle fan, suggested the committee's 7-0 vote amounted to a referendum on Sacramento, not a rejection of Seattle. The private tweets became public Thursday, less than a week before the NBA board of governors is expected to settle the Kings' situation once and for all.

Arison, a member of the committee, said the April 29 vote boiled down to whether Sacramento has "done all it should to keep the team. The answer is yes."

He said Seattle never would have lost the SuperSonics to Oklahoma City in 2008 if city officials had responded the way Sacramento's did to the threatened loss of the Kings.

Arison's criticism extended to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who's part of the group trying to wrestle the Kings away from Sacramento.

Ballmer was praised by NBA Commissioner David Stern in 2008 for his unsuccessful efforts to keep the Sonics from leaving Seattle.

Arison, though, said Ballmer "never stepped up" when the Sonics were heading out the door.

There's been little hesitation from Sacramento officials about the Kings. After Ballmer and business partner Chris Hansen agreed in January to buy the team from the Maloof family, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson helped assemble a team of investors to make a counteroffer. In March, the City Council tentatively approved a $448 million deal for a new arena, including a $258 million public subsidy.

Arison is the only member of the relocation committee to explain his vote. The NBA had no comment on his tweets.

In an interview last week on PBS, NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver said the committee had good reason to favor Sacramento over larger and wealthier Seattle.

Silver acknowledged that Seattle offers "the potential to generate more revenue." But he said Sacramento offers "total value over time, brand building, community support," he said. "That continuity is important."

Arison made his Twitter comments a week ago in a series of private "direct messages" to a Seattle fan identified as Danny. A Seattle radio station posted the dialogue on its website Thursday.

A source with knowledge of the situation, but not authorized to discuss the matter, confirmed that the tweets were Arison's.

The board of governors, consisting of owners of all 30 teams, meets Wednesday in Dallas to vote on the relocation committee's recommendation.

Less certain is whether the board will make a final decision on who will own the team.

Sources said earlier this week that NBA officials are urging Sacramento's investors, led by software executive Vivek Ranadive, to put 100 percent of their purchase offer into an escrow account. The idea is to persuade the Maloofs, who have been skeptical of the Sacramento bidders, to accept their offer as a backup in case Hansen and Ballmer's purchase is vetoed by the board.

The sources say Ranadive's group put 50 percent of the purchase price in escrow last week.

The NBA's finance/advisory committee, which vets potential new owners, hasn't made a recommendation yet on which group should be allowed to buy the Kings. Arison sits on that committee, too.

Hansen and Ballmer last month sweetened their deal with the Maloofs and are now offering $357 million for the 65 percent of the team that the Maloofs and a partner control. The Ranadive group offered $341 million, matching Hansen and Ballmer's original deal.

Asked about Seattle's future NBA prospects if the Kings stay put, Arison said the league will consider expansion, but not until "after the next TV negotiations." The NBA's current national TV contracts expire in 2016.

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



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