By Ben Golliver
NBA commissioner David Stern told reporters in Oakland on Friday that a bid to keep the Kings in Sacramento is not currently strong enough to compete with a Seattle-based investment group's bid, but that he believes the bid will soon be increased.
The Associated Press reported that the Sacramento group has "very strong financial people behind it but it is not quite there" compared to the Seattle group, which is led by Valiant Capital's Chris Hansen and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and which aims to relocate the franchise.
Stern added that there was a "substantial variance" between the two bids, noting that "unless it increases, it doesn't get to the state of consideration," and "right now it is fair to say that the offers are not comparable."
The NBA announced a purchase and sale agreement between the Maloofs, who own a controlling interest of the Kings, and the Seattle group back in January. That deal involved a purchase of 65 percent of the team at an overall franchise valuation of $525 million. The group later filed the requisite paperwork to relocate the franchise to Seattle for the 2013-14 season, where the organization would take on the "SuperSonics" moniker. The original SuperSonics relocated to Oklahoma City and became the Thunder in 2008.
Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson then announced the competing bid at a State of the City address on Feb. 28. Johnson announced, Mark Mastrov, 24 Hour Fitness founder, as the major equity partner behind the bid to keep the Kings in Sacramento and Ron Burkle, billionaire co-owner of the National Hockey League's Pittsburgh Penguins, as the major equity partner in building a new downtown arena to house the team.
Mastrov told the Sacramento Bee on Friday that he was not discouraged by Stern's statements.
"I didn't hear what the commissioner had to say, but we're excited about the Kings, we are going to be aggressive," he said. "We are aiming to win the bid, but it is a long process. We have a long way to go. We are going to continue to work with the NBA."
The NBA's Board of Governors, made up of the league's ownership groups, is set to convene meetings on April 18 and 19 in New York to vote on the sale and the possible relocation of the franchise. The Associated Press reports that the NBA has also announced that a meeting has been set for April 3 in New York, where both Sacramento and Seattle will be able to state their respective cases.
Stern said, according to the Bee, that he expects Mastrov's bid to increase and that the authority of the NBA's Board of Governors will supersede the authority of the Maloofs in determining which bid to accept. When push comes to shove, a three-quarter majority vote of the league's owners will ultimately decide the franchise's sale, not the outgoing ownership group.
"At the end of the day, it is for the board of governors to make the ultimate decision as to who the team will be sold to and where it will be located," he said. "I've spent a fair of number of years to establish that power and prerogative within the board of governors. If an ownership group has decided to exit our league, it doesn't retain the ultimate right to tell us where the team will be located. It is for the board of governors to decide."If the sale to the Hansen/Ballmer group goes through, a majority vote will then determine whether the relocation to Seattle will be approved. The Kings' have been linked to relocation efforts for a number of years, with Anaheim, Virginia Beach and Louisville all being linked as possible homes to the franchise, before Seattle emerged this season. Fan groups have worked diligently to keep their team in Sacramento despite the fact that the Kings are currently 22-42 and on track to miss the playoffs for the seventh consecutive season.