Investor Chris Hansen has contacted the Maloof family about buyingthe Sacramento Kings, setting up the possibility of the NBA's return toSeattle.
Hansen's interest was confirmed Wednesday bypeople with knowledge of the situation. They spoke on condition ofanonymity to The Associated Press because no deal has been reached.
Oneperson said the Kings could sell for more than $500 million. The Kings'future in Sacramento has been uncertain because the Maloofs and thecity haven't been able to come up with a long-term arena solution.
Yahoo! Sports first reported the discussions between the Kings and Hansen.Yahoo! reported a possible sale could land the Kings in Seattle for the2013-14 season, where the team would play at KeyArena as a temporaryhome until a new arena is constructed.
"I know as much as you do," Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn said when asked about the situation. "If it's true, ain't it cool?"
Hiscounterpart in Sacramento thought the news anything but cool. At anafternoon news conference, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson said Wednesdaywas significant because for the first time Kings fans know the team isfor sale. Johnson said he would do all he could to try to find a buyerwith a Sacramento connection to possibly purchase the team and keep itin California's capital city.
"We're going to fight, and we're used to being in this situation," he said.
Hansen,a Seattle native and San Francisco-based investor, reached agreementwith local governments in Seattle last October on plans to build a $490million arena near the city's other stadiums, CenturyLink Field andSafeco Field. As part of the agreement, no construction will begin untilall environmental reviews are completed and a team has been secured.
Hansen'sgroup is expected to pitch in $290 million in private investment towardthe arena, along with helping to pay for transportation improvements inthe area around the stadiums. The plans also call for the arena to beable to handle a future NHL franchise. The remaining $200 million inpublic financing would be paid back with rent money and admissions taxesfrom the arena, and if that money falls short, Hansen would beresponsible for making up the rest. Other investors in the proposedarena include Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer and two members ofthe Nordstrom department store family.
Hansen's goal hasbeen to return the SuperSonics to the Puget Sound after they were movedfrom Seattle to Oklahoma City in 2008. Asked in September if he couldenvision a team being in Seattle for the 2013 season, Hansen wascautious about finding an option that quickly.
The NBAhad no comment. Representatives for Hansen did not return messagesseeking comment. Any franchise looking to relocate must submit its plansto the NBA by March 1 and the move must be approved by the league.
"Aswe have said for nearly a year, we will not comment on rumors orspeculation about the Sacramento Kings franchise," Maloof familyspokesman Eric Rose said when contacted Wednesday by the AP.
TheKings' asking price would top the NBA-record $450 million the GoldenState Warriors sold for in July 2010. Johnson said he's had pastdiscussions with more than one group about possibly stepping forward asowners if the Kings were up for sale.
"All indicationsthat I have seen and read and heard is they are exploring opportunitiesto sell the team, and that is public and that is the first I have everheard," Johnson said. "We need to put ourselves in a position to find anownership group and buyers to keep the team here in Sacramento."
Johnson said he had not spoken with any members of the Maloof family or NBA Commissioner David Stern on Wednesday.
CBSSports.com's Zach Harper notesthat Stern has mentioned recently that he wants to bring a team back tothe city of Seattle, where the Sonics/Thunder franchise once resided,before his tenure as NBA commissioner is done.
News ofthe discussions came a day after officials in Virginia Beach, Va.,announced they were dropping their efforts to build a new arena.Virginia Beach had been reported as a relocation option for the Kings.
TheMaloofs backed out of a tentative $391 million deal for a new downtownarena with Sacramento last year, reigniting fears the franchise couldrelocate. Johnson and the Kings broke off all negotiations in the summerwith the Kings, saying the deal didn't make financial sense for thefranchise.
In 2011, the Kings appeared determined to moveto Anaheim before Johnson convinced the NBA to give the city one lastchance to help finance an arena. At one point, Johnson seemed so certainthe team was gone he called the process a "slow death" and compared thecity's efforts to keep the Kings a "Hail Mary."
Johnsonmade a desperate pitch to the NBA Board of Governors in April 2011,promising league owners the city would find a way to help finance a newarena to replace the team's current outdated suburban facility. Thatpitch bought the Kings time, before the brokered deal between the cityand the Maloofs fell apart last year.
Johnson said the Maloof family still must repay a $77 million loan to the city and other lenders.
Whilesome players around the league took to Twitter on Wednesday to expresstheir excitement about the possibility of the NBA returning to Seattle -especially those players from the Puget Sound area - others were morereserved.
"There's a part of me that's disappointedbecause Sacramento, I've enjoyed my times. I think Sacramento is a greattown," said current Denver coach and former Seattle coach George Karl."I'm not going to lie - I'm happy that Seattle is going to have a teammore than Sacramento. But I am disappointed that Sacramento can't keeptheir team."