Just more than three years after selling the Sacramento Kings, the Maloof family is on the verge of returning to major-league sports ownership.
Numerous media reports said Tuesday that the National Hockey League has tentatively awarded an expansion team to a Las Vegas group that includes the Maloofs as minority partners. Citing unnamed sources, the Las Vegas Review-Journal and other outlets said the NHL’s executive committee has recommended the Maloof group for an expansion team, with a vote by the league’s board of governors expected June 22. The league reportedly will charge investors a $500 million expansion fee.
The team would mark Las Vegas’ first major-league sports franchise, and would represent a comeback for the Maloofs, who were wildly unpopular in Sacramento by the time they sold their controlling interest in the Kings in May 2013.
The Las Vegas hockey team would be controlled by Bill Foley, a Florida insurance executive who also owns a winery in Healdsburg. In an interview with The Sacramento Bee in 2014, Foley said he welcomed the Maloofs into his quest for a hockey team because of the family’s extensive ties in the Las Vegas community and its marketing savvy. The Maloofs have developed and operated two Las Vegas casinos.
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“They’ll have no trouble selling tickets in Las Vegas,” Foley said. The Maloofs have been heavily involved in promoting a season-ticket drive designed to persuade the NHL that hockey could succeed in Las Vegas.
Foley couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday. George and Gavin Maloof declined comment, as did NHL spokesman Frank Brown.
The Maloofs controlled the Kings from 1999 to 2013, when the NBA vetoed their effort to sell the franchise to a group that would have moved the team to Seattle. It was the Maloofs’ second attempt in three years to relocate the franchise, following an aborted effort to cut a deal in Anaheim.
With the route to Seattle blocked, the Maloofs quickly sold their controlling interest to a group led by the team’s current chairman, software tycoon Vivek Ranadive. The deal valued the entire franchise at $534 million. Since then, as NBA team franchises have soared in value, the Kings have become worth an estimated $925 million, according to Forbes magazine.
In the 2014 interview, Foley said he was first approached by the Maloofs in late 2012 when they wanted to partner with him to buy an NFL franchise. At the time, the Maloofs still owned the Kings.
Eventually, Foley and the Maloofs agreed to jump into hockey, a sport that has interested the Maloofs for decades. The family nearly bought the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning in 1997 before investing in the Kings.
Major sports leagues have resisted expanding into Las Vegas for years because of concerns over gambling, but attitudes are changing. The Oakland Raiders are looking at moving to Las Vegas. The Foley-Maloof hockey franchise likely would begin play in the fall of 2017, at a just-opened arena near the Strip.