September 12, 2012

Marcos Breton: Seattle rich guy shows how to do an arena deal

Dear Seattle: Be careful what you wish for.

Dear Seattle: Be careful what you wish for.

After crying enough tears to fill Puget Sound over losing the Seattle SuperSonics years ago, Seattle wants a new NBA team – possibly the Kings – to replace them.

The city just approved an arena deal because Seattle's potential NBA owner has what Sacramento's current NBA owners lack: Money.

The guy who would own the new Sonics, hedge fund rich guy Chris Hansen, cares enough about Seattle to stake his personal fortune as backup in case his arena deal financials go sour some day.

So, that's how an arena deal is done! The owner drives the issue and puts up his own money, too. Who knew?

It's no wonder Sacramento has endured an arena losing streak nearly as long as the Seattle Mariners have stunk.

The Kings owners – the Maloof brothers – always weaseled out of putting a dime of their own money into a new Sacramento building. Nearly everyone the Maloofs know, they owe (some in the millions).

Seattle should take a long look at these guys. It should remember how Hansen answered complex finance and land-use questions from sometimes hostile politicians without referring to notes.

Compare that to our guys. In March, after saying they agreed to an arena deal, Gavin Maloof attended a triumphant Sacramento City Council meeting and exchanged high-fives with giddy Sacramentans.

But it turns out Gavin didn't know what was going on – didn't know his family opposed the Sacramento deal. Gavin's brother George said his older sibling had been confused by the proceedings.

"Gavin, how many City Council meetings have you ever been to?" George barked at him as the TV cameras rolled.

Sadly, it actually seemed plausible. The Maloofs have turned the most rabid fan base in all of sports into a tale of mismanagement. Recently, ESPN placed the Kings next to last in its ranking of 122 pro sports franchises in North America. The Kings have six straight losing seasons and play in a dilapidated building, and the Maloofs find new ways to insult the fan base every week.

The Hollywood tabloids are carrying a story about how the estranged husband of the Maloof daughter says he has to carry a gun to protect himself from "crazy Kings fans." Is it true? Who knows, but it has the whiff of plausibility.

So if Seattle wants the Kings, it has to take these guys, too. The Maloofs' play all along has been for someone else to pay the freight while they control the team.

How bad do you want that, Seattle?

Why would Hansen agree to that?

Sacramento is stuck with the Maloofs, a terrible feeling considering how fun the Kings used to be.

If Seattle wants some of that Maloof misery, Seattle can have it. Just don't claim nobody warned you.

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