NBA commissioner David Stern told reporters Friday that a decision on the fate of the Sacramento Kings and the franchise's possible relocation to Seattle will be pushed back until May.
On April 3, Stern told reporters that the decision would not be made at the league's Board of Governors meetings on April 18-19 in New York City, as originally planned, because the league's finance and relocation committees needed further time to weigh the respective offers made in Seattle and Sacramento.
Those committees met "all-day" on Wednesday, according to Stern, and will meet again "towards the end of next week" when they will vote on a recommendation and issue a report to the league's full Board of Governors. League rules require a seven-day waiting period for that report to be considered before a final, definitive vote can be taken on whether the Maloof family's sale agreement to a Seattle-area investment group and the group's desired relocation of the franchise for the 2013-14 should be approved, or whether a competing Sacramento group's bid should be accepted, keeping the team in California's state capital. Stern said that the committee would likely issue its report on April 29 and the full Board of Governors would likely vote during the week of May 6-10.
According to Stern, the two offers were "in the same ballpark" and that the franchise's fate is a "wrenching" decision that's among the hardest he's had to manage.
"It's the only time in the last 47 years that I haven't known the answer," he said. "No, but this is one that's just been quite difficult and confusing for the owners as well. And we've been working very hard to give it a structure at their direction. We're the staff, and we are trying to answer every question that they have."
Deputy commissioner Adam Silver stressed the importance and legal reasons for the postponed deadlines.
"While we would have liked to have seen it move faster, we can't shortcut this process that requires the committee to meet, the committee to consider various factors that are laid out in the constitution, the committee to then deliberate and make a recommendation, the report then to be issued," he said. "Seven business days then have to pass and then the NBA Board of Governors votes. So there's no shortcutting of that process. I'll only say again to amplify what David said earlier, just to show how weighty the owners are viewing this decision, I can't remember anything in recent history where we've had so many lengthy meetings, so much deliberation."
Seattle-area investors – led by Valiant Capital’s Chris Hansen and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer – agreed to purchase a controlling interest in the Kings from the Maloof family back in January and filed paperwork to relocate the franchise to Seattle, where it would take on the SuperSonics nickname and play in KeyArena until a new stadium is constructed. Artist renderings of the new Sonics Arena were released back in March.
Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and a number of investors — including 24 Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov, billionaire Ron Burkle, TIBCO chairman Vivek Ranadive and Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs – have worked diligently to keep the Kings where they are, recently agreeing to terms on a new Downtown Plaza arena deal.
On Friday, Stern repeated earlier statements that expanding the league to add a 31st team, so so that both cities could be accommodated, was not an option being discussed.
"I don't want to say [expansion is] a complete non‑starter," he said. "If the question is: Was there any discussion of expansion? The answer is no. ... I haven't heard that in any shape or form, particularly when we don't know at this time what the next television network contract would be."
The league is reviewing a number of details regarding both bids, including their respective arena proposals and funding. The Maloof family, which recently sent a letter to the finance and relocation committees asking them to approve the deal with Seattle, have been "welcome participants" in the meetings, Stern said.
The Associated Press reported the contents of the Maloofs' letter.
The Maloof family is asking NBA owners to approve the sale of the Kings to a Seattle group, saying there is "significant distance between us and the Sacramento group.'' In a letter sent to the NBA's relocation and finance committee, and obtained by The Associated Press on Friday, the Maloof family said the Sacramento group originally matched the $525 million valuation for the franchise negotiated by Chris Hansen, who is heading the Seattle group. Hansen then increased the valuation offer to $550 million last week.
The Maloofs said the Sacramento group has asked not to enter into a binding agreement until the Seattle deal is terminated. The Maloofs said that would be a breach of contract and cost them the "leverage to aggressively renegotiate terms in the event the existing agreement is terminated.'' The Maloofs said, under terms of the Hansen deal, they were allowed to enter into binding "back-up'' offers until owners approve the agreement, according to the letter. The family said it would breach its contract with Hansen if it terminated the deal but that the Sacramento group continues to insist it do so. "Based on these factors ... we and our advisors see no reason to continue any dialogue with the Sacramento group or to give any further consideration to negotiating back-up offers based on its latest non-binding proposal,'' the letter said.
At least 23 of the league's owners must vote to approve the sale to the Hansen group while a simple majority of 16 must vote to approve the relocation effort. Stern said Friday that he is not seeking a unanimous vote from the league's Board of Governors on the sale and/or the move. "There's no attempt to get any unanimity," he said. "There's only an attempt to get answers to every possible, any possible question that various owners have, and then they'll vote however they vote, period. We're not out there at our own, on our own motion or at the direction of any committee or group of owners out there trying to get to one result or another."