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Groups hoping to buy Kings make presentations to NBA owners

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Associated Press
4/3/2013 5:41:49 PM
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NEW YORK -- Financial strength, political support, passionate fans.

Seattle has all that, the men trying to bring NBA basketball back there say, and Kings ownership wants to sell to them.

George Maloof, whose family owns the franchise, made that clear to a committee of owners Wednesday.

Investor Chris Hansen and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, heading the group trying to buy and move the Kings, led their presentation and were joined by Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and King County Executive Dow Constantine.

"I believe Chris did a very thorough job of outlining the deal and what the ownership team was looking at it," McGinn said. "I think Steve Ballmer did a very good job of expressing the kind of the enthusiasm for Seattle, and now's a good moment for us, and George Maloof closed by expressing his desire to close the deal with Chris Hansen. So collectively, I think the team did a very good job."

The Seattle group has a pending agreement with the Maloof family to buy 65 per cent of the team and move it back to the city the SuperSonics left in 2008. Sacramento has put together its own group to make a competing bid, and its presentation followed.

The sides met with members of the Advisory Finance and Relocation committees, comprised of 12 owners, who will make a recommendation to the full board when it meets April 18-19. A vote is expected at those meetings.

"I think we were very well prepared," Hansen said. "We're optimistic, the ownership group's very enthusiastic and we appreciate the NBA's got a tough decision to make and we're hopeful for an outcome in our favour."

Hansen was guarded, providing few details from Seattle's meeting. He did say the city highlighted its economic strength, corporate support and passion for basketball.

McGinn and Constantine also assured owners of the region's political support, which NBA Commissioner David Stern felt was lacking when the league tried to help the Sonics get funding for a new building to replace Key Arena before they left for Oklahoma City.

"One of the things that became more and more evident is there's a lot more information and certainty around the Seattle proposal because it's been under development for more than two years," Constantine said. "It's gone through the financial analysis, the political process, the real estate has been acquired, and so I think that Chris was able to show that, as Steve Ballmer alluded, that the pieces are in place in Seattle right now."

However, McGinn couldn't say for certain when a new arena would be finished. He said the aim was two to three years, but couldn't guarantee that.

"We are methodically taking the steps we need to move forward with an arena," he said, "and of course we have to go through the environmental review and understand that. And with any major project there are people who will raise questions, but we are dealing with those in a thorough and methodical way."

Expecting lengthy debate and a difficult decision, Stern set up Wednesday's meeting so owners would be able to get a jump on the issue before their season-ending meetings.

A group of Sacramento fans wearing Kings jerseys gathered in front of the New York hotel where the meetings were held to greet their contingent, led by Mayor Kevin Johnson. He's confident his city has done everything asked to show its commitment to keeping the Kings in Sacramento and building a new arena.

The former NBA star has assembled a potential ownership group that includes Silicon Valley software tycoon Vivek Ranadive, 24 Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov, billionaire investor Ron Burkle and Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs.

The Kings were thought to be on their way out two years ago, when the Maloofs were prepared to move them to Anaheim, Calif. Johnson came to New York to lobby owners to give his city more time, and the plan to relocate fell through.

Sacramento fell into deeper jeopardy of losing its team in January when the Hansen-Ballmer group signed a deal with the Maloofs for $341 million -- a figure reached from a total franchise valuation of $525 million, an NBA record.

The city has fought back again, recently approving an arena financing plan and lining up an ownership group that can compete with the powerful Seattle one. But it still must overcome the wishes of the Maloofs to deal with Seattle.

"They did express strong support for moving forward with the deal that they've made with Chris Hansen," McGinn said, "and of course in the nature of the presentation it was important to Chris Hansen to point out the advantages to Seattle as a marketplace and as a destination for the NBA."

Isaiah Thomas (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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