Yesterday, Chris Hansen and co. made a big last-second push to attempt to change the minds of the NBA's Board of Governors by raising the bid on the Kings from a franchise valuation by $75 million. That was just one side of the coin however, as the Maloof family is making a play of their own.
According to a new report by ESPN's Brian Windhorst, the Maloofs have told their fellow owners that if they vote against the deal to sell and relocate the Sacramento Kings, they will not sell the team to the Sacramento group led by Vivek Ranadivé.
Further, the Maloofs and Hansen have struck a backup deal with the Hansen-Ballmer group to sell them 20 percent of the team for $125 million (so the same valuation, just a smaller percentage) while the Maloofs would retain control and continue to operate the franchise.
Windhorst also reveals that as another sweetener for the NBA, the Hansen group has offered to pay a $115 million relocation fee, almost four times the amount Clay Bennett payed to move the Sonics to Oklahoma City.
The NBA is set to meet and vote on the situation on Wednesday, May 15th, but Windhorst reports that the NBA relocation committee will again meet ahead of that meeting to discuss these newest offers. It's unclear if this will sway minds or not. The relocation committee voted 7-0 against relocation just over a week ago. While a recent report by the Seattle Times' Art Thiel says that the vote was actually split 4-3 and the dissenters changed their vote so as to show unanimity, the NBA is singing a different tune.
.@art_thiel had source saying relocation vote was initially 4-3. NBA spokesman Tim Frank: "It's a total fabrication."— Tom Ziller (@teamziller) May 11, 2013
Now, how does this play out? Windhorst rightly notes that even though there may be some discussion on the topic, the NBA will likely not want to "return to square one" and drag this issue even further. He also notes that just as the Hansen-Ballmer group need approval to buy the 65%, they would also need approval to buy the 20% (This is one of the main reasons that the Sacramento Group abandoned the bid for Bob Cook's 7%, as if the NBA denied relocation, they'd likely deny the sale of that minority share as well).
The NBA knows what approving any sale of the Kings to the Hansen-Ballmer group would mean: eventual relocation. The city's latest arena deal was agreed to by the Ranadivé group, not the Maloofs, who rejected a deal that saw far less contribution from the ownership side last year. The Hansen-Ballmer group desperately wants to bring the team to Seattle. There would be no "good-faith" effort to build an arena in Sacramento should the NBA deny relocation but approve any type of sale, either majority or minority, with that group.
Windhorst closes his report by saying:
Throughout this tedious process, the Maloofs and the Hansen-Ballmer group have worked without involving the league office and powerful NBA commissioner David Stern. Meanwhile, the Sacramento group and mayor Kevin Johnson have worked with Stern every step of the way. That partnership seems to have helped the city and Ranadive get into favorable position with other owners.
That trend has not stopped the Seattle group from pressing forward with these plans.
The Sacramento group has repeated for months that they are simply following the NBA process. They were rewarded with a seeming stamp of approval by the relocation committee. As Micky Arison said in his tweets to a disgruntled Seattlite, it's not about Seattle, it's about whether or not Sacramento has done everything possible.
The answer is yes. It was yes, back then, and it's still yes now.
Now the NBA can't force the Maloofs to sell to the Sacramento group and that is most certainly a problem. The Maloofs have had multiple chances to save face, but are seemingly determined to make this situation FUBAR.
I'm still personally confident that the NBA will stick to their earlier recommendation and deny the sale to Hansen but I no longer have faith in a quick resolution, not with the Maloofs involved.
UPDATE 5:30 PM:
The Bee has confirmed this report, and also added a response from some sources close to the Ranadivé group:
Two sources close to the Sacramento group said the investors, led by Vivek Ranadive, are unfazed by the latest moves by the Maloofs, Hansen and Ballmer.
"Doesn't change our approach," one source said.
The Ranadive group has offered $341 million - matching Hansen and Ballmer's original deal with the Maloofs in January. Hansen and Ballmer raised their bid to $357 million last month.
The source close to Ranadive said the Sacramento investors don't plan to raise their offer.
"Sacramento has made their bid and is comfortable where they are," he said.