NBA delays vote on Kings' future

04/17/2013 12:00 AM

10/01/2014 2:12 PM

The uncertainty over the future of the Sacramento Kings will linger at least into next week.

Just as Mayor Kevin Johnson announced on Tuesday that a local investor group was finally ready to present its formal bid to buy the team, league officials in New York revealed they have scrubbed plans to vote this week on a competing offer to move the team to Seattle.

An NBA spokesman declined to offer a reason. League Commissioner David Stern two weeks ago said a postponement was possible due to what he called the complicated and unprecedented situation the league faces.

The NBA has never before had to decide between two cities competing hard and well for the same team, Stern said. Both have well-financed groups eager to buy the team from the Maloof family, the team's current owner, and both cities assure the NBA they can build gleaming state-of-the art arenas in the next few years.

League officials said a select group of about a dozen team owners will meet today in New York – in a location not disclosed to reporters – to review the two proposals. Those owners, who make up the league's finance and relocation committees, will recommend a winner to the full 30-member board of governors.

Despite the continued uncertainty, Johnson was upbeat about Sacramento's chances Tuesday, saying an investment group aligned with the city is expected to hand the NBA a written, binding offer to purchase the Kings for consideration at today's committee meeting.

Speaking at an afternoon news conference that resembled a pep rally in Downtown Plaza, where the arena would be built, Johnson implied that the dollar amount of Sacramento's bid would not match Seattle's newly sweetened offer. He declined to describe Sacramento's bid but said he believes the NBA and the Maloof family will be comfortable with it.

"We felt we made good on what we said we are going to do," Johnson said. "I think the NBA and the Maloofs are comfortable with that.

"It's in their hands."

A spokesman for the Maloof family declined to comment on whether the Maloofs have seen a Sacramento offer and whether they would support it as a backup bid, should the league vote against their deal with Seattle.

Several members of the Sacramento group said their lawyers have been in daily contact with NBA attorneys and Maloof family attorneys in an effort to hammer out an offer acceptable to the Maloofs.

The Seattle group upped the ante last week, announcing it was increasing its offer from a team valuation of $525 million to $550 million. The Sacramento group has dismissed that as a nominal increase, saying it will match Seattle's initial, lower bid.

Seattle officials also announced Tuesday they had signed a deal to upgrade that city's existing KeyArena, former home to the SuperSonics, for the team to play in next year.

Johnson was joined Tuesday at his news conference by several members of the Sacramento investment team, including the group's managing partner Vivek Ranadive, 24-Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov, local developer Mark Friedman and the three Jacobs brothers from San Diego.

The entourage, which took motorized tours of Downtown Plaza and Old Sacramento, also included former Kings player Mitch Richmond and ex-49ers star Roger Craig, who works for Ranadive's company, Tibco Software Inc.

Ranadive, a Silicon Valley technology entrepreneur, said he has "fallen in love" with Sacramento, and is humbled by fan support. He told The Bee that if his group succeeds in buying the Kings, he will jet from his home in Silicon Valley to most games in Sacramento, as well as some away games.

The NBA's decision not to vote on the Seattle bid this week deflated fans in both cities, and left pundits guessing at what might be at play behind the scenes.

"Part of it is the complicated aspect of it, part of it is the debate," legal expert Michael McCann of NBA TV said in an interview. "The league hasn't decided yet what to do."

McCann said the board of governors likes to avoid close votes and "it could be that the owners haven't rallied around one particular outcome."

He said a delay could favor Sacramento, the incumbent city, because teams need to start selling season tickets and sponsorships soon for next season.

The delay also means that, for the second time in three years, Kings fans will attend the season-ending game – tonight against the Los Angeles Clippers at Sleep Train Arena – not knowing if it will be the last time they have a team to call their own.

Two years ago, the Kings appeared headed to Anaheim. Last year, the season ended on a down note after the Maloofs abandoned a deal for a new arena in Sacramento, but it was clear the Kings would return for this season.

Call The Bee's Tony Bizjak, (916) 321-1059. Follow him on Twitter @tonybizjak.


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