The Sacramento Kings and the National Basketball Association this morning confirmed that the sale of the team to a Seattle investment group has been finalized, and the deal has been sent to the NBA for review and potential approval in the coming weeks.
In a brief statement, the team owners, the Maloof family, expressed appreciation for Sacramento fans, but offered no details on the move.
"The Maloof family announced today that an executed purchase and sale agreement has been reached to sell the family's interest in the National Basketball Association (NBA) Sacramento Kings to a group led by investor Chris Hansen. The transaction requires approval by the NBA's Board of Governors and therefore no comments or details regarding the agreement will be released.
"We have always appreciated and treasured our ownership of the Kings and have had a great admiration for the fans and our team members. We would also like to thank Chris Hansen for his professionalism during our negotiation. Chris will be a great steward for the franchise."
The league confirmed it has received sale documents.
"The NBA received an executed Purchase and Sale Agreement for the transfer of a controlling interest in the Sacramento Kings from the Maloof family to an investor group led by Christopher Hansen. The proposed transaction is subject to the approval of the NBA Board of Governors and has been referred to the Board's committee process for review."
The deal would move the team to Seattle - and sets up a climactic showdown that may not be settled for months.
The Maloofs didn't release the purchase price, but Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson has said he believes the family was negotiating a deal that would value the franchise at up to $525 million. That implies the Seattle group is paying around $340 million for the 65 percent share controlled by the Maloofs.
Hansen released his own statement about a half hour after the Maloofs, saying, "We are happy to announce that we have entered into a binding agreement with the Maloofs to purchase a controlling interest in the Sacramento Kings NBA franchise." He too wouldn't release financial details but noted the purchase "is obviously subject to approval by the NBA Board of Governors."
Johnson still has his card to play. The mayor expects to unveil his own counter-offer, complete with a financing package for a badly needed new arena.
With the public encouragement of NBA Commissioner David Stern, he expects to present his proposal to the NBA Board of Governors in New York in April, where a dramatic showdown with the Maloofs and Hansen's group looms.
Stern personally negotiated the downtown arena deal that was abandoned by the Maloofs last spring and was angry when they rejected the plan.
Among the possible "local" bidders are Bay Area investor Mark Mastrov and supermarket tycoon Ron Burkle, who tried to buy the Kings in 2011.
But Johnson himself has said there's no guarantee the NBA will side with Sacramento. Yahoo Sports, quoting anonymous sources, reported late Sunday that the league's influential relocation committee is expected to endorse the Seattle deal to the Board of Governors. The board consists of all league owners.
The Maloofs acquired a controlling interest in the Kings in 1999 and were wildly successful for their first few years in Sacramento. As the team's fortunes crumbled and the family's finances withered, the Maloofs vowed never to sell the franchise - remembering with regret the fact that they'd sold the Houston Rockets in 1982 after their father died.
Still, the Maloofs have held significant discussions with at least two cities trying to lure the team - Anaheim in 2011 and Virginia Beach, Va., up until earlier this month. The day after the Maloofs ended their discussions with Virginia Beach, a source close to the family said the Maloofs were in talks with Hansen's group.
Hansen, a successful hedge fund manager backed by Microsoft billionaire Steve Ballmer, has longed to return the NBA to Seattle. The city's beloved SuperSonics left for Oklahoma City in 2008, and Hansen intends to rebrand the Kings as the Sonics.