The Bee reported Tuesday that the trustee running Sacramento Kings minority owner Bob Cook's bankruptcy will bring in a special litigation counsel to pursue the right of first refusal issue. The trustee, David Flemmer, is trying to sell Cook's assets for the highest price possible. The 7 percent stake in the Kings that Cook owned and used as collateral for a loan he's defaulted on is much more valuable, says Flemmer, if there is a right of first refusal that is respected in the sale of the team.
Legitimizing that right of first refusal would be extraordinarily good news for Sacramento, because that would provide a strong path to purchase by a current minority with potential investor (Burkle/Mastrov) backing despite what the NBA wants. But while most seem to be saying delaying the sale of the 7 percent helps Sacramento, that is, I believe, a short-sighted view. The best path at this point is not infinite delay of the purchase of the team by Chris Hansen. The best path is purchase of the team by Mark Mastrov and Ron Burkle. And if the NBA determines that keeping the Kings in Sacramento is the way to go, and a court drags the sale of the Kings to anyone through a tar pit ... that's not good for Sacramento.
The 7 percent stake is an important piece of the puzzle because it can force resolution on the right of first refusal. But the city's best chance at winning this war remains producing a viable plan that includes a strong local ownership component with the whales and a viable downtown arena plan and potentially the stake of a current major minority owner, like the Benvenuti family.
Of course, if Chris Hansen wants to withdraw the purchase agreement and yank his $30 million out of escrow before Friday because of Flemmer's muckraking, I'm A-OK with that. I just think this news about potential delays is more a nuisance to Seattle than a real threat. The real threat is in the news about the special counsel looking into right of first refusal, which despite the deepest wishes and assertions of the Seattle crowd is a very legitimate issue.