Nearly five years after the franchise relocated, the SuperSonics are one significant step closer to returning to Seattle.
And the Kings are on the edge of leaving Sacramento.
All that appears to stand in the way now is approval by NBA owners.
The Maloof family has agreed to sell its majority stake in the Kings to a Seattle group led by investor Chris Hansen, the league confirmed in a statement Monday. The deal is still pending a vote by the NBA Board of Governors.
A person familiar with the decision said that Hansen’s group will buy 65 percent of the franchise, which is valued at a total price of $525 million, and move the team to Seattle and restore the SuperSonics name. The deal will cost the Hansen group a little more than $340 million. The Maloofs will have no more stake in the team.
The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the deal was awaiting approval.
The sale figure works off a total valuation of the franchise, which includes relocation fees. Hansen’s group is hoping to buy out other minority investors.
The Maloofs will get a $30 million non-refundable down payment by Feb. 1, according to terms of the deal, the person said. They will still be allowed to receive other offers until the league approves the sale. The $525 million sale price for the Kings would surpass the NBA record $450 million for the Golden State Warriors in 2010.
The plan by Hansen’s group is to have the team play at least the next two seasons in KeyArena before moving into a new facility south of CenturyLink Field and Safeco Field. The deadline for teams to apply for a move for next season is March 1. The office of Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn confirmed it is already working with Hansen on an agreement for using KeyArena, including scheduling and short-term upgrades to the arena.
“While we are not at liberty to discuss the terms of the transaction or our plans for the franchise, given the confidential nature of the agreement and NBA regulations regarding public comments during a pending transaction, we would just like to extend our sincerest compliments and gratitude toward the Maloof family,” Hansen said in a statement. “Our negotiations with the family were handled with the utmost honor and professionalism and we hope to continue their legacy and be great stewards of this NBA franchise in the coming years and decades.”
Hansen was not available for further comment.
Momentum was building toward a sale agreement after word of talks between Hansen and the Maloofs leaked nearly two weeks ago. Sacramento will get its chance to counter with Mayor Kevin Johnson already receiving permission from NBA commissioner David Stern to present a counteroffer to league owners from buyers who would keep the Kings in Sacramento.
Johnson, a three-time All-Star point guard in the NBA, said in a statement that the city remained undeterred.
“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,” Johnson said.
The SuperSonics became a footnote when owner Clay Bennett moved the franchise to Oklahoma City in 2008 after 41 years in Seattle. The Sonics won the NBA title in the 1978-79 season.
While Northwest NBA fans were excited about Monday’s news, there was an air of caution as well.
“It tore the hearts out of the city when the (team) left the first time and it’s just wonderful news to get a team back,” said Jerry Brown, who was at KeyArena on Monday buying college basketball tickets. “I feel sorry for the people of Sacramento, they have good fans there, but we want our team back.”
What the Maloofs get:
• A $30 million non-refundable down payment by Feb. 1. They will still be allowed to receive other offers until the league approves the sale.
• More money in their pockets. The $525 million sale would top the NBA-record $450 million the Golden State Warriors sold for in July 2010.
• But they will have no stake in the team.
What the Hansen Group gets:
• A 65 percent share of the franchise. The group is also hoping to buy out other minority investors.
• To relocate the team to Seattle. The deadline for teams to apply for a move for the 2013-14 season is March 1.
• To restore the SuperSonics name and colors.
• A deal that will cost the group a little more than $340 million.
• A team to play at least the next two seasons in KeyArena before moving into a new facility south of Safeco Field. The group has pledged to spend up to $15 million to improve KeyArena.
• Approval from the NBA Board of Governors.