The Sacramento Kings are engaged in talks with a Seattle investment group headed by Chris Hansen about a possible sale and relocation of the NBA team, multiple sources reported Wednesday.
Yahoo Sports first reported the discussions between the Kings and Hansen. Yahoo reported a possible sale could land the Kings in Seattle for the 2013-14 season. The team would play at KeyArena as a temporary home until a new arena is constructed.
Sources told Yahoo and The Associated Press the Kings could sell for more than $500 million. The Kings’ future in Sacramento has been uncertain because the owners, the Maloof family, and the city haven’t been able to come up with a long-term arena solution.
“I know as much as you do,” Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn said when asked about the situation. “If it’s true, ain’t it cool?”
His counterpart in Sacramento thought the news anything but cool. At an afternoon news conference, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson said Wednesday was significant because for the first time Kings fans know the team is for sale.
Johnson said he would do all he could to try to find a buyer with a Sacramento connection to possibly purchase the team and keep it in California’s capital city.
“I cannot identify them,” Johnson said about the groups he has talked to. “There’s been more than one.”
Any franchise looking to relocate must submit plans to the NBA by March 1, and the move must be approved by the league. USA Today reported the NBA had issued a memo to owners on Wednesday warning them not to comment about the Kings’ potential sale.
The NBA had no comment. Representatives for Hansen did not return messages seeking comment.
“As we have said for nearly a year, we will not comment on rumors or speculation about the Sacramento Kings franchise,” Maloof family spokesman Eric Rose said.
The Sacramento Bee quoted two sources denying a media report that a deal is at hand. The talks have been “conceptual,” said one source, who declined to be named because he is not authorized to speak on the matter. The online media report about a pending sale “is premature,” another source said.
News of the discussions came a day after officials in Virginia Beach, Va., announced they were dropping their efforts to build a new arena. Virginia Beach was thought to be a relocation option for the Kings.
The story gained traction Tuesday night after a food blogger — Daina Falk, daughter of NBA super agent David Falk — tweeted that a deal between the Kings and the Seattle group was complete. That tweet was later removed.
Johnson, the Sacramento mayor, said he had not heard about a potential sale to the Seattle group until Wednesday.
“I can’t substantiate everything going on in Seattle. I found out when everyone else did. Some tweet went out … and everything went crazy,” he said.
The Kings’ asking price would top the NBA-record $450 million the Golden State Warriors sold for in July 2010. However, the Maloofs have appeared close to making a deal in the past.
The Maloofs backed out of a tentative $391 million deal for a new downtown arena with Sacramento last year, reigniting fears the franchise could relocate. Johnson and the Kings broke off all negotiations in the summer with the Kings, saying the deal didn’t make financial sense for the franchise.
In 2011, the Kings appeared determined to move to Anaheim before Johnson persuaded the NBA to give the city one last chance to help finance an arena.
Hansen, a Seattle native and San Francisco-based investor, reached agreement with local governments in Seattle in October on plans to build a $490 million arena near CenturyLink Field and Safeco Field. As part of the agreement, no construction will begin until all environmental reviews are completed and a team has been secured.
Hansen’s group is expected to pitch in $290 million in private investment toward the arena, along with helping to pay for transportation improvements in the area around the stadiums. The plans also call for the arena to be able to handle a future NHL franchise.
The remaining $200 million in public financing would be paid back with rent money and admissions taxes from the arena, and if that money falls short, Hansen would be responsible for making up the rest. Other investors in the proposed arena include Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer and two members of the Nordstrom department store family.
Hansen’s goal has been to return the SuperSonics to the Puget Sound area since they were moved from Seattle to Oklahoma City in 2008. Asked in September if he could envision a team being in Seattle for the 2013 season, Hansen was cautious about finding an option that quickly.
kings on the court
By almost any measure, the Kings are one of the least successful franchises in NBA history. Through Tuesday, only the Golden State Warriors franchise had lost more games in the history of the league (2,717). Their .465 all-time winning percentage is 21st among the 30 active NBA franchises.
The Kings/Royals franchise has retired 10 numbers.
1: Nate Archibald
2: Mitch Richmond
4: Chris Webber
6: The Sixth Man
11: Bob Davies
12: Maurice Stokes
14: Oscar Robertson
21: Vlade Divac
27: Jack Twyman
44: Sam Lacey ROYAL TRAVELERS
Seattle would be the sixth city the Kings franchise has called home.
Rochester (N.Y.) Royals
Kansas City-Omaha Kings (home games divided between two cities)
Kansas City Kings
Sacramento Kings THE LOCAL PLAYERS
Chris Hansen heads an ownership group that contains Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and two members of the Nordstrom family. The group reached a deal with the City of Seattle in October to build a $490 million arena near CenturyLink and Safeco fields.
Reports have the price for the Kings being more than $500 million, which would top the NBA record of $450 million the Golden State Warriors sold for in July 2010. Clay Bennett bought the Sonics from Howard Schultz for $350 million in 2006. THE LOCAL CONNECTION
Isaiah Thomas (below): The former star from Curtis High and the University of Washington is averaging 10.6 points per game for the Kings this season.The Sacramento Bee and The Associated Press contributed to this report.