Though a deal has been inked (officially announced Monday) on an agreement for the Sacramento Kings owners The Maloof Family to sell a controlling interest of the team to a Seattle group headed by hedge fund billionaire Chris Hansen ( including Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and two members of the Nordstrom family), there remain just a few obstacles to the team taking the court at the Key Arena this fall as the Seattle Supersonics.
1) The deal has to be approved by the NBA. While this seems merely a formality at this point, the board of governors will listen to the NBA’s relocation committee (ironically headed by the man who moved The Sonics to Oklahoma City, Clay Bennett), and possibly a counteroffer from Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson ( A three-time NBA all-star with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Phoenix Suns), who is scrambling to put together a local ownership group, reportedly including 24-Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov and Sleep County USA/Sleep Train head honcho Dale Carlsen (who owns the naming rights to the Kings current arena). The final decision won’t be made until April.
2) Hansen’s group doesn’t own all of the team. Phil, George, and Gavin Maloof sold their controlling interest in the team…65%…to the Hansen group reportedly for just over $340 million (they get a non-refundable down-payment of $30 million February 1st), but the team is valued at $525 million (an NBA record eclipsing the previous sale of the Golden State Warriors in 2011 for $410 million), and though they wouldn’t have a say in relocation plans, Hansen’s group would very much like to buy out the minority owners.
3) The Key isn’t ready. The City of Seattle has been planning for this since a deal for a new arena was reached between Chis Hansen’s group and the King County and Seattle City councils. The group has pledged 12-15 million dollars towards new broadcast electronics and signage (a lot has changed technologically since 2008 when the Sonics last played there), and lower bowl seating. But Seattle city councilman Tim Burgess says they can’t actually do anything until the sale is formally approved by the NBA. He says the Key Arena will be ready by fall, and the Supersonics could play as many as three seasons there until the new arena is completed.
4) New Arena construction has to be approved. An environmental impact study on the plan has to be completed, and there are still two pending lawsuits over the building of a new arena, one from a group representing Port of Seattle Longshoremen and a citizen’s group trying to block the arena. Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn sounded optimistic in saying “All major projects go through this, and you deal with the issues as they come up.”
While it’s still possible the deal could fall apart, it’s more than likely it won’t, so go ahead and dust off those old Sonics jerseys!
-Scott Vanderpool, 1090 The Fan