SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – CBS13 has confirmed that the Maloofs have had discussions about selling the Kings to a group led by billionaire Chris Hansen, who would move the team to Seattle.
The firestorm started, oddly enough, Wednesday morning when Daina Falk, a food blogger but daughter of NBA super agent David Falk, tweeted that the Maloofs had sold the team.
The tweet has since been deleted, but Yahoo! Sports NBA reporter Adrian Wojnarowski later tweetedthat the Maloofs are indeed in serious talks to sell the team to a group led by Seattle native Hansen and Microsoft Chairman Steve Ballmer for $500 million.
The Maloofs are finalizing an agreement to sell the Sacramento Kings to the Hansen-Ballmer led Seattle group, sources tell Yahoo! Sports.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) January 9, 2013
In follow-up tweets, the reporter said the team would play two seasons in KeyArena, the former home of the Seattle SuperSonics, starting in the 2013-14 season before moving into a new arena. He added that no agreement had been signed.
A source later told CBS13’s Steve Large that the Maloofs rejected the Seattle group’s initial offer to buy the team but that they are in continued negotiations. The $500 million figure would not go directly into the Maloofs’ pockets. They owe anywhere from $150 to $219 million in a loan from the NBA and $77 million in a loan from the city of Sacramento.
No agreement signed, but one source describes deal as "1st and goal at 1." Maloofs history of changing course late still makes many uneasy.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) January 9, 2013
Plans to build a $490 million arena in Seattle were approved by the City Council and the King County Council last October.
Earlier in the morning, a Kings official denied the team had been sold.
“The rumors regarding the team being sold are simply not true,” the team spokesman said.
Maloofs spokesman Eric Rose said of the rumor: “As we have said for nearly a year, we have been contacted by several cities and parties interested in the Sacramento Kings organization. The announcement (Monday) from Virginia Beach does not change our long-held position that we will not comment on rumors or speculation about the franchise.”
Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, who spearheaded efforts to build a $391 million downtown arena in Sacramento before the Maloofs walked away from the deal last year, also responded to the Seattle reports via Twitter, writing: “Bottom line Sacramento, it’s not over.”
Johnson then addressed the situation at a 3:30 p.m. press conference and said he’s committed to finding a local buyer for the team. Johnson previously convinced the NBA to block the Maloofs’ efforts to move to Anaheim to allow for the city to put together a financing plan for a new arena.
“We need to put ourselves in position to find an ownership group and buyers to keep the team here in Sacramento,” he said. “Sacramento is a proven NBA market. We deserve to be an NBA city. We’re going to fight and we’re used to being in this situation.”
Johnson said this is the first time the Maloofs have indicated publicly that they are willing to sell the team, and despite news of the negotiations with Seattle, he said the city would do its part to be competitive if the team is up for bid.
“I think there a lot of advantages for the team to stay in Sacramento,” he said.
Johnson made it very clear that if the Maloofs want to sell the Kings and move them out of Sacramento, he’s prepared to make life difficult for them.
“I’m gonna make every effort that I can possibly do to identify a potential buyer that would ensure that the Sacramento Kings remain in Sacramento,” Johnson said at the news conference.
Insiders tell CBS13 that many potential investors have come forward, showing interest in owning the Kings and keeping them in Sacramento. One group is tied to Gary Van Dusen, who in the mid-1980s was part of the group that brought the Kings to Sacramento from Kansas City.
“There are investment groups that want to participate, we’re ready to go,” said Van Dusen.
Johnson says so is Ron Burkle, a Southern California billionaire who has expressed interest in not only owning the Kings, but also writing a big check to build a new downtown arena.
“Burkle was in discussions about a possibility a year, or two years ago, when we were there; and we’ve always stayed in constant contact,” said Johnson.
In fact, sources tell CBS13 that Johnson and Burkle have been working closely ever since the downtown arena deal fell apart. It’s almost as if Johnson was waiting for this to happen. If the Maloofs are entertaining offers, then the Kings are apparently for sale. Before the NBA approves a sale to outside investors, who want to move the team, Johnson has another card to play.
Burkle is a very wealthy man, who wants to keep the Kings in Sacramento, and is admired by NBA commissioner David Stern. If the Maloofs are looking to sell and move the team, it could be more difficult than they think.
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn held a press conference at 1:15 p.m. regarding his plans to run for re-election. At the beginning of the event he said he knew nothing about a possible Kings move.
“I just want to knock off the first question from the press conference. I know as much as you do about the Sonics. I just wanted you to know that,” said McGinn. “I don’t have any inside information, but if it’s true, ain’t it cool?”
Seattle has been trying to fill the void in the city after the Sonics moved to Oklahoma City in 2008.
If a deal is reached, the team would have to file for relocation by March 1 and the sale would still have to be approved by NBA owners.