NBA committee rejects Sacramento Kings move to Seattle

SACRAMENTO BEEApril 29, 2013 

— In a move that all but guarantees the Sacramento Kings are staying put, a committee of NBA owners voted unanimously today to block the team's pending sale and relocation to Seattle. The NBA announced that its combined relocation and finance advisory committee, composed of 12 owners, voted unanimously to reject the Maloof family's proposed sale of the Kings to hedge fund manager Chris Hansen and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who planned to move the team to Seattle.

The Maloof family had no immediate comment. One of the Sacramento bidders, San Francisco tech executive Andy Miller, said on Twitter, "Here we stay! Kings and Sacramento's future is very bright."

A Hansen spokesman had no immediate comment.

Microsoft Chairman Steve Ballmer, a member of Hansen's group, told Seattle radio talk show host Mitch Levy today he is "horribly, horribly disappointed." Ballmer told Levy he and his group are continuing their communications with David Stern, and plan to put their heads together to see if there is a reasonable next step.

"What Sacramento did was beat the odds," said Michael McCann, legal analyst at NBA TV.

Mayor Kevin Johnson, who spearheaded the effort to derail the Seattle move, took to Twitter to announce: "That's what I'm talking about SACRAMENTO!!!!! WE DID IT!!!!!"

The full Board of Governors isn't expected to vote on the Kings until around May 13, but the committee's recommendation will surely be influential. The Hansen-Ballmer group needs 23 of 30 owners' votes to get control of the team.

Today's vote followed a two-hour conference call by committee members - and came after months of unprecedented arm wrestling over the lowly Kings. The Maloofs agreed in January to sell their 65 percent share to the Hansen group for $341 million. Hansen upped the offer to $357 million earlier this month.

A group of eight investors recruited by Mayor Kevin Johnson and led by Palo Alto software executive Vivek Ranadive submitted a proposal to keep the team in town. The deal matched Hansen's original offer of $341 million, according to a letter the Maloofs sent earlier this month to the NBA.

Both cities pitched multimillion-dollar subsidies for new arenas, with the Sacramento City Council tentatively approving a $258 million subsidy, to be paid mainly by borrowing against future parking revenues. Seattle, which lost its SuperSonics to Oklahoma City in 2008, offered the larger and richer market. But Sacramento touted its long record of loyalty to the NBA and its status as a one-team town.

McCann said it was remarkable for the NBA to reject the proposal from Hansen and Ballmer, a pair of owners "that had no question marks." The last time the NBA killed a sale and relocation, involving the Minnesota Timberwolves in 1994, the potential buyers in New Orleans had shaky financing.

With the Kings, the process dragged out weeks longer than usual, and McCann said that was no coincidence. "They wanted the unanimous vote," he said.

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