Lost amid the fallout from NFL Championship Weekend comes a new, groundbreaking development in the potential sale of the Sacramento Kings.
Sources say that a deal is now imminent between Kings ownership and a Seattle-based investment group led by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Chris Hansen. ESPN's Marc Stein discussed financial specifics (the Maloofs are selling 65 percent stake for $525 million) after tweeting:
Kings deal to Seattle group still requires formal NBA ratification but Hansen group intends to file for relocation by March 1 if approved— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) January 21, 2013
UPDATE: Monday, Jan. 21 at 10:24 a.m. ET by Brandon Galvin
USA Today's Jeff Zillgitt has the latest from Gavin Maloof:
Statement from Gavin Maloof: "We have always appreciated & treasured our ownership of the Kings & have had a great admiration for the fans."— Jeff Zillgitt (@JeffZillgitt) January 21, 2013
More from Gavin Maloof: "We would also like thank Chris Hansen for his professionalism during our negotiation."— Jeff Zillgitt (@JeffZillgitt) January 21, 2013
More from Gavin Maloof: "Chris will be a great steward for the franchise."— Jeff Zillgitt (@JeffZillgitt) January 21, 2013
---End of Update---
UPDATE: Monday, Jan. 21 at 9:56 a.m. ET by Brandon Galvin
USA Today's Jeff Zillgitt has the latest on the Kings' deal:
Statement from NBA on Kings-Seattle: "NBA received an executed Purchase and Sale Agreement for the transfer of a controlling interest ..."— Jeff Zillgitt (@JeffZillgitt) January 21, 2013
NBA statement: "in the Sacramento Kings from the Maloof family to an investor group led by Christopher Hansen."— Jeff Zillgitt (@JeffZillgitt) January 21, 2013
NBA statement: "The proposed transaction is subject to the approval of the NBA Board of Governors and ..."— Jeff Zillgitt (@JeffZillgitt) January 21, 2013
NBA statement: "has been referred to the Board's committee process for review." When NBA finally speaks on issue, more weight to deal.— Jeff Zillgitt (@JeffZillgitt) January 21, 2013
---End of Update---
UPDATE: Monday, Jan. 21 at 9:26 a.m. ET by Brandon Galvin
The Kings' move from Sacramento to Seattle would reportedly be approved "overwhelmingly," according to Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski:
With the finalization of the Sacramento Kings' sale to a Seattle-based ownership group, the NBA's relocation committee will overwhelmingly ratify the franchise's move to Seattle for the 2013-14 season, league sources told Yahoo! Sports.
The new ownership group, led by Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer, will purchase 65 percent of the Kings at a franchise valuation of $525 million. The new owners will file for relocation to Seattle before the March 1 deadline, sources told Yahoo! Sports.
The Seattle group's plan is to play the next two seasons in KeyArena before moving into a new $500 million arena in downtown Seattle in 2015, sources said.
The new Seattle owners will bring back the franchise's longtime Sonics name and colors.
---End of Update---
ESPN's J.A. Adande went on to report that papers have already been signed:
NBA source says Sacramento Kings sale to Seattle group is signed & sent to league.Maloofs will retain "small piece" of team.— J.A. Adande (@jadande) January 21, 2013
Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski chimed in with some specifics on the exorbitant reported sum of $525 million...
The $525 million price is a "valuation" on the total franchise. For 65 percent, Seattle group would pay approximately $340 million.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) January 21, 2013
...A price that ruffled LeBron's feathers just one year after the NBA lockout:
So the Kings getting sold for 525M!! And the owners ain't making no money huh? What the hell we have a lookout for. Get the hell out of here— LeBron James (@KingJames) January 21, 2013
Perhaps the most captivating angle of the story, however, comes from former New York Post writer Peter Vecsey:
Source says almost living lock Phil Jackson will become front office face of Seattle-bound Kings' franchise. Won't coach. Will mentor choice— Peter Vecsey (@PeterVecsey1) January 21, 2013
Meanwhile, Aaron Bruski of ProBasketballTalk went into further, more analytical detail
While Sacramento will get a final shot to convince NBA owners that this is not something they want to approve, sources have told ProBasketballTalk that Seattle’s Chris Hansen is ready to announce a tentative agreement to purchase the Sacramento Kings in the coming days.
Similar reports surfaced weeks ago from the likes of Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports and Matt Steinmetz (via Sulia), but today's reports, if true, are decidedly more momentous. They include the part where Chris Hansen is ready to make an announcement this week, a move that would put the wheels in motion very, very quickly.
Having said that, even Sunday's news does not make the Kings' relocation to Seattle a done deal. It helps the cause, certainly, but there are still numerous hurdles for Hansen and Co. to overcome.
The sale of every NBA team is subject to approval (or disapproval) by the NBA's Board of Governors—an entity composed of the league's 29 other owners. Sacramento has been making a concerted effort to counteract Chris Hansen's relocation efforts, and if those efforts are strong enough, the Kings organization might be able to convince the board to save the team.
Kevin Johnson elaborated on that notion in a statement late Sunday night (via Sulia):
Sacramento has proven that it is a strong NBA market with a fan base that year in and year out has demonstrated a commitment to the Kings by selling out 19 of 27 seasons in a Top 20 market and owning two of the longest sellout streaks in NBA history. When it comes to keeping the team in our community, Sacramento is playing to win. In particular, we have been focused like a laser on identifying an ownership group that will both have the financial resources desired by the NBA and the vision to make the Kings the NBA equivalent of what the Green Bay Packers have been in the NFL.
Aaron Bruski confirmed Johnson's laser-like focus, per his report from above:
...Sources tell PBT that Sacramento is close to announcing three groups of “heavy hitters” that meet NBA criteria and have the “vision to transform one of the NBA’s most proven markets into a top NBA franchise.
If a new, prospective buyer emerges and piques the board's interest, it might be enough to keep the Kings in Sacramento. Nobody wants to see another Sonics-Gate—even if it poetically returns a team to Seattle—so relocation is only appealing when no other options exist.
Whether these prospective buyers are legitimate remains to be seen. But if they are, they'd better start showing themselves quick.
Because Chris Hansen doesn't plan on waiting for them.