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Updated Thursday, January 17, 2013 at 03:24 PM

Report says NBA's relocation committee was briefed on Kings' sale to Chris Hansen's group

By Bob Condotta
Seattle Times staff reporter

Two more national reports published Monday suggested a sale of the Sacramento Kings to the Chris Hansen-led group that would relocate them to Seattle might be imminent.

In Sacramento, meanwhile, grass-roots efforts designed to keep the team there began in earnest.

A report from Yahoo.com stated that the NBA held a conference call last week with members of the league's relocation committee, headed by Clay Bennett, to brief them on the outlines of a proposed sale.

The report said Hansen's group, which also includes Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, would buy 65 percent of the team, with the team given a value of $525 million, and that discussions have continued in the past week to clear the way "for the franchise to move to Seattle."

The portion of the team Hansen's group would be buying would be the 53 percent owned by the current controlling owners, the Maloof family, and 12 percent owned by minority owner Bob Hernreich. The report said it was unclear if the Maloofs would retain any stake. But the report said the Maloofs would not have any role in the future of the team. The Seattle Times reported last week that one potential snag in the negotiations was the desire of the Maloof family to retain a role in the management of the team.

The remaining 35 percent would apparently remain with other minority owners (including a 7 percent share that is reportedly scheduled to be sold as part of a bankruptcy proceeding — Hansen's group could increase its share of the team by purchasing it).

A lengthy report Monday from NBA.com detailed the state of the negotiations and quoted what it called an industry source saying the Kings and their owners "have got a clean path to Seattle." NBA.com is the league's official website but its content is not controlled by the league.

The report also stated that Hansen might have wanted to delay making his pursuit of the team public until the Seahawks' season was completed, suggesting an announcement could come this week with the Seahawks losing Sunday in Atlanta.

There was no official comment from Hansen's group, the NBA, or the Kings.

Hansen's group is hoping to wrap up the sale in time to meet the NBA's March 1 deadline for applying for relocation for the 2013-14 season. If the sale goes through, the team would play for two years at KeyArena while a new $490 million arena is constructed in the Sodo District. The NBA.com report said that NBA commissioner David Stern and the league "wants certainty the arena will be built" before throwing its full weight behind Hansen's purchase.

Stern said last week in a brief comment that he wanted to give the city of Sacramento a chance to come up with a buyer who could "match" the price Hansen's group is willing to pay.

After reports surfaced last week of negotiations between the Kings and Hansen's group, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson said he would attempt to assemble a group that could buy the team and keep it in Sacramento.

Names of three prospective buyers have since surfaced. The NBA.com report, though, said the Maloof family is not interested in selling the team to anyone who will keep it in Sacramento.

Supporters of the team, meanwhile, launched a campaign called "Here We Buy," urging fans to show their commitment to the team by pledging to buy season tickets if a new arena is built in the city. The website advertised that it had received pledges for more than $3.5 million as of Monday afternoon.

The site included a mission statement asking the NBA to allow both cities to have teams, with the Kings staying in Sacramento and the NBA granting an expansion franchise to Seattle.

Stern has been quoted consistently in recent years saying expansion is not an option. Some in Sacramento, though, are hopeful the NBA might be more willing to consider it when the league goes to negotiate its next TV deals, which currently run through the 2015-16 season. NBA.com, though, theorized that the TV deals might be a factor in the NBA desiring to replace Sacramento — the 20th-largest TV market — with Seattle, which is 12th.

Any sale of the team would not be approved until the NBA Board of Governors meets in April.

Hansen has a deal with the City of Seattle and King County to move toward building a new arena in Sodo once he and his investment group secure a team.

Plans to build a $490 million arena were approved by the City Council and the Metropolitan King County Council last October.

Seattle has been without an NBA team since 2008 when the Sonics were relocated to Oklahoma City by Bennett.

Hansen has spent the past year laying the groundwork for an arena deal and attempting to buy a team to move to Seattle.

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @bcondotta.


ELAINE THOMPSON / AP
Chris Hansen




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