Vivek Ranadive purchased the Kings
in May after a Chris Hansen-led Seattle relocation bid failed. (Rocky Widner/Getty Images)
Valiant Capital's Chris Hansen, the leader of a Seattle group's failed bid to purchase and relocate the Kings, has reportedly been identified as the source of a major donation to a Sacramento group's anti-arena effort.
The Sacramento Bee reported Friday that Hansen donated $100,000 to Sacramento Taxpayers Opposed to Pork (STOP), apparently in an attempt to thwart Sacramento's efforts to build a new arena.
Chris Hansen, the Seattle investor who tried to buy the Sacramento Kings earlier this year, was unmasked today as the mystery donor behind the petition campaign seeking to derail the Kings' proposed new downtown arena. ... Amid a lawsuit and a state investigation, Hansen and an Orange County political action committee filed documents revealing Hansen contributed $100,000 to the petition drive on June 21 - a month after the NBA board of governors vetoed his plan to buy the Kings and move them to Seattle.
The revelation came one day after the [Fair Political Practices Commission] sued Los Angeles law firm Loeb & Loeb, which served as conduit for the donation, demanding that the donor's name be disclosed. ... The stunning disclosure was the latest setback for the Sacramento group gamely trying to carry on with the petition drive. The group, STOP, has been hurt already by media reports about the secrecy behind the campaign's funding.
Since spring, a small group of volunteers known as STOP -- Sacramento Taxpayers Opposed to Pork -- has been circulating petitions to force a public vote on the city's proposed $258 million arena subsidy. Without a new arena, the NBA says the team will eventually leave. Then in June, $80,000 was wired from the Loeb & Loeb law firm in Los Angeles to a Tulare-based political consultant who specializes in petition drives. The contribution should have been disclosed by July 31 but wasn't, and prompted the FPPC lawsuit.
An agreement to construct a new arena in Sacramento was a key criteria in the NBA Board of Governors' decision to ultimately recommend against Hansen's relocation attempt and back the sale of the Kings to a California-based group led by Vivek Ranadive.
Friday's revelation casts a new, harsher light on Hansen's response to his failed Kings bid. Back in May, The Point Forward noted that his public statement in response to the NBA rejecting his relocation bid -- reprinted below -- was "noble and graceful" and that he came away from the months-long negotiations looking like a "dignified loser."
While we are obviously extremely disappointed with today’s relocation vote and truly believe we put forth both a significantly better offer and Arena plan, we do thank the league and the owners for their time and consideration and look forward to hearing back on our agreement to join the Maloofs as Limited Partners in the Kings.
But most of all I would like to thank everyone in Seattle who has been a part of our effort and supported our cause. Words simply can’t express how much your support has meant to me personally and to our City. I truly believe we did everything possible to put our best foot forward in this process and you all should be proud and hold your heads high today.
Our day will come … and when it does it will just be that much sweeter for the struggle.
I love you Seattle!
Of course, secretly funding an effort focused solely on complicating the lives of the victors amounts to pure hardball, a move that appears vindictive, petty and cutthroat, rather than noble, graceful and dignified.
The Seattle PI reports that Hansen went even further in a May interview with Seattle's KJR radio, expressing regret at the Kings saga and pledging that further efforts to land a team in Seattle wouldn't involve poaching from another market
“We are not going to be in that position again. We’re not going to be going to another city as a predator and trying to wrestle a team away,” Hansen said on KJR. “It’s unfortunate that we found ourselves in that position. It’s not the way we wanted to handle things, and I think it made us all uncomfortable sitting there.
“After everything we’d been through, it kind of made me sick to my stomach. In a way of, like: ‘Just how did I get myself into this position? This isn’t the way this is supposed to go down.’”
Shortly after making those comments, Hansen was cutting a check to STOP.
Within hours of the news breaking Friday, Hansen had confirmed the donation in a statement on SonicsArena.com, expressing "regret" at what he called a "mistake."
When our binding agreement to purchase the Sacramento Kings became a competitive situation and we were faced with both the prospect of seeing our transaction fail and losing our $30 million deposit, I engaged Loeb & Loeb to canvas the various opposition groups to gain an understanding of their efforts and the prospects of their success.
While I'm sure everyone can appreciate how easy it is to get caught up in the heat of battle, with the benefit of hindsight, this is clearly a decision I regret. I wish the city of Sacramento and Kings fans the best in their efforts and they have my commitment not to have any involvement in their arena efforts in the future.
Hansen also said that he made the donation in a "personal capacity," that his business partners involved in the Kings bid were not aware of his action, and that he has no further plans to contribute to the anti-arena efforts.
Seattle's KOMO news reported Friday that the NBA had no comment on the matter.
After exploring the possibility of relocating the franchise to Anaheim and Virginia Beach in recent years, the Maloof family reached an agreement to sell the Kings to a Seattle-based investment group led by Hansen and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer 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, and then upped its offer multiple times, finally settling on a $625 million valuation. The original SuperSonics relocated to Oklahoma City and became the Thunder in 2008.
Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and a number of investors -- including Ranadive, 24 Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov, billionaire Ron Burkle and Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs -- worked diligently to keep the Kings where they are, preparing a competing offer for the Kings and agreeing to terms on a new Downtown Plaza arena deal. Kings fans organized “Here We Buy” nights to show their support for keeping Sacramento’s only major professional sports franchise in town.
The Maloofs eventually completed the sale of the Kings to the Ranadive group in May in an agreement based on a valuation of $534 million after the NBA's Board of Governors voted against Seattle's relocation bid.
NBA commissioner David Stern told reporters in May that Sacramento’s efforts swayed the Board of Governors, who followed a recommendation from the league’s relocation committee.
“The [relocation] committee recommended to the board and it was adopted that if the Sacramento community could produce a site, a construction team, a financially strong ownership group and the kind of support by the city and the region that Mayor Johnson has galvanized that the appropriate outcome was to keep the team in Sacramento, and that’s what they did,” Stern said.
This post has been updated