The man who could move the Sacramento Kings to Seattle is an ultra-wealthy basketball fan who yearns to bring the NBA back to his hometown.
Chris Hansen, founder of a San Francisco hedge fund, has a tentative deal in place to build a $490 million arena south of downtown Seattle. The city and King County would put up $200 million, and Hansen would contribute the rest.
Hansen is surely good for his share. He has told Seattle officials he has a net worth of at least $300 million, and his arena proposal has the backing of the Nordstrom family and Microsoft executive Steve Ballmer. His hedge fund, Valiant Capital, controls $2.5 billion in assets and was an early investor in Facebook.
Hansen, 44, was born in San Francisco but raised in the Seattle area. He grew up rooting for the city's old NBA team, the SuperSonics, who relocated to Oklahoma City in 2008. In an interview with the Seattle Times last year, he recalled skipping school to attend the victory parade when the Sonics won their only NBA title in 1979.
"This isn't about Chris Hansen," he told the Times. "This is about an NBA team and a new arena."
He began talking to Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn privately about a new arena in late 2011.
Hansen quickly won the support of basketball fans in the Seattle region. Last September, dressed in Sonics attire, he bought beers for fans at a Seattle bar after finalizing a memorandum of understanding on an arena plan with the Seattle City Council.
But the project has aroused some local opposition. The longshoremen's union has sued over concerns that the arena would interfere with traffic at the port.
A graduate of San Diego State and USC, Hansen has worked in the investment business since 1996 and founded Valiant Capital in 2008. He reportedly has spent more than $50 million buying land for the proposed arena site, and spent the past several months working on environmental reviews.
But not an inch of dirt will get moved until Hansen can secure an NBA or NHL franchise.