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Maloofs agree to sell Kings to Hansen's Seattle group

By David Aldridge, TNT analyst
Posted Jan 21, 2013 1:06 AM - Updated Jan 21, 2013 9:55 AM

The Sacramento Kings may be playing their last games in the capital city.

Sources said Sunday night that the Maloof family, which owns the team, reached agreement over the weekend to sell a controlling interest in the club to a group led by hedge fund manager Chris Hansen, whose intention after buying the team is to petition the NBA to move the team to Seattle in time for the 2013-14 season.

On Monday morning, the NBA issued the following statement: "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."

Hansen, with a group of limited partners, will pay $525 million to the Maloofs to buy a 65 percent share of the team, sources said. That represents the "upper chair," or controlling, percentage of the team that had been owned by the Maloofs. Another 35 percent of the team remains in the hands of minority investors, but Hansen's intention is to try and buy out those investors in the near future, according to a source directly involved in the discussions.

ESPN.com first reported the finalized deal Sunday night.

The source said that the final agreement was signed late Saturday evening between the family and Hansen, who has spent the last couple of years buying more than $50 million worth of land near Safeco Field, where the Mariners play baseball, and CenturyLink Field, home of the NFL's Seahawks, with the intention of building an arena for a new NBA team.

Hansen would have until March 1 to file for relocation with the league in time to move the Kings to Seattle for next season. The deal would still be subject to approval by the NBA's relocation committee, which would recommend proceeding with the sale or objecting to it, as well as the full Board of Governors.

The sale left the Maloofs, who bought controlling interest in the Kings in 1999, "bittersweet," according to the source. The family's patriarch, George Maloof, Sr., owned the Houston Rockets from 1978 until his death in 1980. The Kings have been in Sacramento since moving from Kansas City in 1985.

The source said the Maloofs, as late as a month ago, were in negotiations with a single, unnamed buyer who was prepared to keep the team in Sacramento for at least two more years. But the deal could not be consummated and the family turned back to Hansen last month.

There were other potential investors over the last couple of years as well, according to the source, but they ultimately didn't have the money or changed their minds. The Maloofs didn't have a "vendetta" against Sacramento or a desire to move, the source said.

Yahoo.com reported Sunday that the NBA's relocation committee is expected to overwhelmingly approve the Kings' move to Seattle for 2013-14 and that a formal announcement of the franchise move is expected this week. Wojnarowski reports Hansen and the new owners will bring back the Seattle SuperSonics longtime green-and-gold colors and name. Yahoo.com also reports the Seattle franchise, in an effort of a complete overhaul of the on-court product, could target San Antonio Spurs GM R.C. Buford and ex-Indiana Pacers president Larry Bird to handle the franchise's basketball-related moves.

Hansen reached agreement with the city of Seattle and the King County Council last October to build a $490 million arena in that South of Downtown (Sodo) area. The city would contribute about $200 million toward construction, which would be paid back over a 30-year period with rents and admissions taxes raised by the arena. Hansen would provide the rest, and be responsible for any shortfalls, putting $30 million into a trust to handle such deficits.

The city will also be able to compel Hansen to buy the arena after 30 years for $200 million, or make him pay to have the building torn down if the team leaves down.

Hansen would also contribute to a fund designed to improve transportation efforts in the Sodo area. Critics of the plan believed increased traffic would harm business in and near the Port of Seattle.

There are currently two lawsuits filed against Hansen and the city, looking to stop the deal from going through. That may represent Sacramento's last best hope of stopping the sale; the league would be reluctant to approve any move of a team that doesn't have a solid arena deal in place.

However, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson has been working diligently the last couple of weeks to try and put a group together that would be able to make an offer to the Maloofs to buy the team and keep it in Sacramento. Johnson and the business community have coalesced around an arena plan similar to the one that the Maloofs walked away from last March. NBA Commissioner David Stern was strongly supportive of the previous arena deal and has been sympathetic toward the city's efforts to retain the Kings.

City officials believe the league and the Maloofs could still be swayed by an offer, even if it doesn't reach the $525 million Hansen is paying, because keeping the team in Sacramento would free the Maloofs from having to repay the $70 million loan they took from the city in 1997. The loan was contingent on the team remaining in Sacramento for 30 years. The Maloofs also have borrowed approximately $75 million from the NBA on its line of credit.

Johnson will be allowed to address the NBA's Board of Governors when it meets to formally vote on the proposed sale, and present a counteroffer. The Sacramento Bee reported Sunday night that Johnson has lined up three major potential owners.

"KJ is well-liked and (is) a very impressive guy," one high-ranking team official said of Johnson last week.

Seattle has been without an NBA team since Clay Bennett bought the SuperSonics and moved them to Oklahoma City in 2008. Bennett is the chair of the NBA's relocation committee.

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