The fight for the Kings took another wild turn Saturday, with the Maloofs threatening not to sell the team to Sacramento's investor group if the NBA blocks the family's deal with bidders from Seattle.
Two sources close to Sacramento's bidders said they've been told the Maloofs won't do business with them and have made a backup deal with Seattle's investors in case their pending $406 million sale is thwarted.
According to these two sources, the backup deal calls for the Maloofs, who have struggled financially in recent years, to sell just a 20 percent share of their interest to Seattle investors Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer.
A source familiar with the situation said the Maloofs would get $125 million for that share. While that's just a fraction of the payout the Maloofs have been expecting, they would remain in control of the Kings if the backup plan is accepted by the league. The new plan was first reported by ESPN.com. A Maloofs spokesman had no comment.
The NBA board of governors would have to approve the Maloofs' backup plan, but it's far from certain the board would approve a deal that keeps the controversial family in control of the team.
The Maloofs angered many around the league last year when they scuttled a plan for a new Sacramento arena personally negotiated by NBA Commissioner David Stern.
The NBA's relocation panel has already recommended against the move to Seattle but will meet again by conference call Monday to hash out the latest developments, a source said. The NBA's finance/advisory committee which is in charge of vetting potential new owners will also meet by phone Monday.
Their recommendations could set up what could be a climactic decision on the Kings' fate Wednesday in Dallas, where the entire board of governors will meet. The board consists of owners of all 30 teams.
One of the sources close to the Sacramento group said the NBA has known for days about the Maloofs' backup plan. He said the Sacramento investors, led by tech tycoon Vivek Ranadive, won't alter their bid to adjust to the new move from the Maloofs and the Seattle group.
"Doesn't change our approach," the source said.
The Ranadive bid for the entire Maloof share sits at $341 million, or $65 million less than Hansen and Ballmer's latest offer.
Another source close to the Ranadive group added, "We remain focused on the process created by the NBA. This is first and foremost about Sacramento's ability to thrive as a market. We have a plan and an ownership group that will allow it to thrive for decades."
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, who helped pitch the city's plan to NBA owners last month, issued a statement saying the "community deserves better than an ultimatum to sell part of the team to the same people trying to move it."
A source familiar with the situation added that the Hansen-Ballmer group offered to pay a $115 million relocation fee if it gets permission to move the Kings to Seattle. That's three times as much as a team has ever paid to move an NBA franchise. The fee would be split among all the other team owners.
Saturday's dramatic developments are part of a one-two punch from Hansen and Ballmer as they try to regain momentum in their campaign to bring the NBA back to Seattle after a five-year absence.
In late April, they were dealt a blow when the NBA's relocation committee voted 7-0 against moving the Kings to Seattle.
Now, just days before the NBA board of governors meets with the intention of deciding the issue once and for all, Hansen and Ballmer are ramping up their efforts to get control of the team somehow.
On Friday, they raised their offer to the Maloofs again from $357 million to $406 million for the 65 percent share controlled by the family. They also pledged that once the franchise moves to Seattle, it will contribute to the revenue-sharing pool designed to assist weaker franchises. The Kings are now one of the biggest revenue-sharing recipients, getting about $15 million a year. The Ranadive group has promised the NBA it wouldn't take any revenue-sharing dollars.
The source close to the Ranadive group said Saturday that the Silicon Valley executive doesn't plan to go beyond the $341 million the group has offered the Maloofs.
"Sacramento has made their bid and is comfortable where they are," he said.
NBA officials have said that, despite the higher offer made by Seattle's investors, there are sound reasons why the relocation committee voted in April to recommend the team stay put. Shortly after the vote, Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver told PBS that Sacramento's long record of "community support" for the NBA is important. Miami Heat owner Micky Arison, a member of the relocation panel, said in a Twitter post that became public Thursday that Sacramento did "all it should to keep the team."
The Sacramento City Council tentatively approved a deal for a $448 million arena at Downtown Plaza, including a $258 million public subsidy.
This isn't the first time the Maloofs have threatened not to sell the Kings to the Sacramento group. They made a similar threat a little more than a month ago to signal that they were impatient that the Ranadive group hadn't submitted a formal purchase offer.
Call The Bee's Dale Kasler, (916) 321-1066. Follow him on Twitter @dakasler.