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Stern Says ‘Very Strong’ Seattle Group Officially Files For Relocation

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SACRAMENTO (AP/CBS13) – NBA Commissioner David Stern says the group that has reached agreement to purchase the Sacramento Kings has formally filed to relocate the franchise to Seattle.

Stern spoke on Wednesday night in Minneapolis before the Timberwolves hosted San Antonio. He called the Seattle group, led by Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer, “very strong,” and that the appropriate committees have been convened to look over the proposed sale of the Kings and the prospective move to Seattle.

The deadline for teams to file for relocation is March 1. It’s been expected that the Hansen/Ballmer group would file to move the team to Seattle, but Stern’s comments were the first time that decision has been verified.

The group reached a sales agreement with the Maloofs, majority owners of the Kings, that reportedly valued the franchise at $525 million. Hansen has an agreement with the city of Seattle to build a new downtown arena if his group can secure an NBA franchise. Seattle lost the Sonics in 2008 to a new ownership group that moved the franchise to Oklahoma City.

Meanwhile, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson continues to push forward trying to arrange a counteroffer to present to the NBA Board of Governors. Owners have to vote to approve the relocation, which could happen when they meet in April.

Johnson has yet to announce the equity partners he’s assembling, but Ron Burkle and Mark Mastrov have both been in discussions. The Kings’ play-by-play announcer Grant Napear expects Sacramento’s investor announcement to be a game-changer.

“I think the group that’s going to be announced here is going to open up a lot of eyes in the NBA,” he said.

The deal reached with the Maloof family to buy the Kings still needs approval from the other owners.

Stern on the possibility of the Sacramento Kings moving to Seattle:
“The latest with the Seattle/Sacramento situation is that we have submitted a signed agreement for the team to be sold to a very strong group from Seattle. We have received an application to have the team moved from Sacramento to Seattle. I have convened the appropriate committees and told them that as we get more information and more data we will be sending the information to them because they will have to make a recommendation to the board, which will likely decide the issue, both as the sale and the move, at our board meeting in April. The mayor of Sacramento has advised that he will be back to us soon with a proposal from a group to buy the team in Sacramento and build a building in Sacramento with a substantial subsidy from the city of Sacramento. We’re abiding events. The Seattle application is to play in Key Arena– probably for two years, possibly three. There is no final approval with respect to a new building in Seattle but events are well underway moving in that direction. They don’t currently have a building, but they propose to improve Key as a temporary facility while a new one is being built. My guess is it’s likely that the mayor of Sacramento will appear before the board with an alternate plan. That’s why we have a board of governors, to make difficult decisions like this one.”

Stern on the likeliness of the Kings staying in Sacramento:
“I don’t think it’s a bidding war. There’s a series of issues that are defined by our constitution that have to be considered. One of the things that our board is mandated to consider is the support for the team in the prior city. There are real issues for the board to consider; about buildings and the likelihood they’ll be built, about the support in both cities. I think I might have helped compose the standards, but sitting here today I can’t remember what they are. There are a lot of them. Actually, to confuse it just a little bit, the application for a transfer requires a three-quarter vote, and the application to move requires a majority vote. I did the sensible thing, combined the committees and said, ‘You guys figure it out.’ “

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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