New Ownership Intends to Keep the Sonics and the Storm in Seattle
The Basketball Club of Seattle (BCOS) announced today that it has signed a purchase agreement to sell its NBA Seattle SuperSonics and WNBA Seattle Storm for $350 million. The teams are being purchased by the Professional Basketball Club LLC, an Oklahoma City, Oklahoma based investment group led by Clayton I. Bennett, chairman of Dorchester Capital, a private investment company. Additional members of the group include Aubrey K. McClendon, Chairman and CEO, Chesapeake Energy Corporation; G. Jeffrey Records, Chairman of the Board and CEO, MidFirst Bank; Tom L. Ward, Chairman and CEO, Riata Energy, Inc., and G. Edward Evans, chairman, Syniverse Holding, Inc. The transaction is expected to close by the end of October of 2006.
“We have enjoyed the opportunity to own and operate the Sonics and the Storm for the past five seasons and are proud of what we’ve achieved both on and off the court,” said Howard Schultz, chairman of the Basketball Club of Seattle. “Since the majority of the Basketball Club of Seattle’s investors live and work in the Seattle community, it was extremely difficult for us to decide to sell the teams. As you may know, over the past two years, we have worked with local and state officials to seek a solution to the arena issues. However, it became more apparent that a new ownership group may be more successful in achieving the remaining goals of the Sonics and Storm.”
“We are grateful to have the opportunity to combine our passion for professional basketball and our abilities to build successful business enterprises,” said Bennett. “We thank the BCOS. They love this city and the Sonics and Storm. We appreciate the opportunity to lead a professional sports organization that has achieved the pinnacle of success within both the NBA and WNBA.
“The Sonics and the Storm are synonymous with Seattle, and it is our desire to have the Sonics and the Storm build upon their great legacies in the Greater Seattle area,” added Bennett. “We believe with the right dynamics on the court, the right community support, the right business model and a financially committed ownership group that recognizes and respects Seattle, we can succeed here for decades to come.”
“We decided that if we had to sell the team, our first preference was to identify a local buyer who resides in the Northwest, and we were committed to taking a lower price if a local buyer came forward,” continued Schultz. “Unfortunately, we searched for a local buyer, but were unsuccessful. However, we are pleased that the ownership of the Sonics and the Storm will transition to the Professional Basketball Club, which is a stellar management team, with a history of proven success.”
“The Basketball Club of Seattle offers a sincere thank you to our players, our coaches and all of our front office employees for their hard work and dedication over the past five years,” said Wally Walker, president and CEO of the Seattle Sonics & Storm. “We also want to thank Sonics and Storm fans and business partners for their passionate support. Our employees and basketball fans around the Northwest should remain very proud of the 40-year legacy of the Sonics and the success the Storm have experienced in their seven seasons. I’m committed to working with the new owners to keep our teams in Seattle and I’m excited about the energy they will bring to the organization.”
Former Seattle Seahawks great Steve Largent, who is from Oklahoma originally and knows personally several members of the new ownership group commented, “They are well-respected and successful business professionals who are sports fans. I know they truly would like to keep the Sonics and the Storm in Seattle. On a personal note, I hope they are successful.”
The Basketball Club of Seattle purchased the teams in April 2001 from The Ackerley Group. During the five years of BCOS ownership, the Sonics recorded a winning percentage of 51 percent, made two playoff appearances and won the 2005 Northwest Division title. The Storm have made three playoff appearances and won the 2004 WNBA Championship – the first major professional sports championship for Seattle since the Sonics won the 1979 NBA Championship.
In addition to achievements on the court, the teams remain active in the community. The Sonics & Storm Foundation and its players donate more than $1 million per year to the region’s communities.