By Eric M. Johnson
May 17 The owners of the Sacramento Kings
basketball franchise have struck a tentative deal to sell the
California team to local investors after the National Basketball
Association denied a proposal to move the team to Seattle,
Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson said on Friday.
The deal by an investor group led by tech developer and
philanthropist Vivek Ranadive followed months of bitter
wrangling between Seattle investors, who wanted the team to
replace a beloved franchise the Pacific Northwest city lost in
2008, and California investors, who wanted it to stay put.
The deal replaces an earlier agreement struck in January
between the King's current owner, the wealthy Maloof family led
by George Maloof, which has made real estate and other
investments in the western United States, and a Seattle-based
investor group led by hedge fund manager Chris Hansen, Microsoft
Chief Executive Steve Ballmer and others.
Johnson declined to provide details of the deal to keep the
Kings in the California capital, but a source close to the
negotiations said it values the franchise at roughly $535
million and that the group has placed more than $341 million in
For Ranadive to buy a 65 percent stake in the Kings he must
divest his minority ownership stake in the Golden State
Warriors, which could happen as early as Friday, the source
"In concept and in theory, everything has been agreed to,"
said the source, who is close to the Maloof family but declined
to be identified because he was not authorized to discuss the
deal. "Money has not changed hands and George has not signed a
piece of paper."
The deal also will require NBA approval.
Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, appearing triumphant and
sleep-deprived at a City hall press conference, heralded the
deal as a "defining moment" for the city.
"It's a new era today," Johnson said, flanked by
politicians, local team investors and supporters.
"We know it's about a team, yes, but it's about jobs, it's
about revitalizing our downtown community, it's about civic
pride," Johnson said.
"It's about not letting somebody take something away that's
not theirs," Johnson said, drawing raucous applause. "We don't
take a backseat to anyone."
Johnson said the investor group behind the deal includes
24-Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov, members of the Jacobs
family with ties at Qualcomm Inc, among others from
Former Facebook Inc executive Chris Kelly has also
been identified as an investor.
Fund-manager Hansen has long vowed to bring a team back to
Seattle and rename it the SuperSonics after the sorely missed
franchise the city lost to Oklahoma City. He already has a deal
with the city to build a new arena.
Last month, a committee of NBA owners voted that the team
should stay in Sacramento, but Hansen vowed to fight on, raising
his bid for a controlling interest in the Kings to $406 million,
which valued the team at an unprecedented $625 million.
"(The team) will change hands once the deal closes and the
league approves," said NBA spokesman Tim Frank.