UPDATED 12:44 ET, April 30
NBA owners have done the right thing. The Kings will be staying in Sacramento.
The owners' relocation committee recommended unanimously on Monday to reject the Kings' application to relocate to Seattle. The full Board of Governors -- one ownership representative from each team -- will convene on May 13 for a formal vote.
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Relocation would've required a majority of 16 owners to pass in that vote next month, but the 7-0 vote by the relocation committee carries considerable weight. The 12 owners on the combined relocation and advisory finance committees spent months working on the issue of competing bids to buy the team from the Maloof family. Overturning their unanimous recommendation would require the remaining owners to rise up in opposition to Monday's vote.
The combined committees were comprised of a cross-section of owners from large and small markets: Clay Bennett (Oklahoma City), James Dolan (Knicks), Wyc Grousbeck (Boston), Peter Holt (San Antonio), Herb Simon (Indiana), Larry Tanenbaum (Toronto), Glen Taylor (Minnesota), Ted Leonsis (Washington), Micky Arison (Miami), Jeanie Buss (Lakers), Robert Sarver (Phoenix) and Greg Miller (Utah).
The seven owners who voted to against relocation were Bennett (the relocation committee chairman), Arison, Leonsis, Miller, Simon, Taylor and Holt, who is chairman of the board.
After requesting additional information from both proposed ownership groups in recent weeks, the combined committees convened on a conference call on Monday for final discussion of the issue and to vote on a recommendation.
Sacramento's three-year fight to keep the Kings from leaving town -- first for Anaheim and now for Seattle -- has ended with a stunning victory after the franchise that seemed certain to be lost. On the other side, Seattle suffered another devastating defeat after losing the SuperSonics to Oklahoma City in 2008.
In a statement posted on SonicsArena.com, the leader of the proposed Seattle ownership group, Chris Hansen, vowed to fight on and make the case to the Board of Governors that the Maloof family's agreement to sell the team to that group should go forward.
"While we are disappointed with the relocation committee's recommendation, we just wanted to let you all know that we remain fully committed to to seeing this transaction through," Hansen said. "... We plan to unequivocally state our case for both relocation and our plan to move forward with the transaction to the league and owners."
The Maloofs agreed in January to sell 65 percent of the team to Hansen and Ballmer based on a franchise valuation of $525 million. On April 12, Hansen announced that his group had increased the valuation its offer was based on by $25 million. The Sacramento group, led by software billionaire Vivek Ranadive, essentially matched that offer after accounting for the fact that no relocation fee would have to be paid to the other 29 owners if the team stayed in Sacramento.
The owners' decision was a sweeping victory for Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, who, since January, had recruited an ownership group (led by Ranadive, fitness maven Mark Mastrov and Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs) and pushed an arena funding plan through the city council for the second time in two years.
Once the full Board of Governors rejects the relocation application, the Maloof family would have little choice -- short of legal action -- but to turn to a backup offer from the Sacramento group led by Ranadive. Under that likely scenario, the purchase agreement reached by the Maloofs and the Hansen-Ballmer group would never go before the owners for a vote.
Hansen alluded to possible legal action in his statement, saying, "We have numerous options at our disposal and have absolutely no plans to give up."
Transfer of ownership to the group led by Ranadive, who stands to become the first NBA owner of Indian descent, would require three-fourths approval of the board.
The agreement between the Maloofs and the Hansen-Ballmer group put the NBA in the unenviable position of having to preside over the seventh franchise relocation of David Stern's tenure as commissioner. On many occasions, Stern acknowledged that the offer was formidable, with a strong ownership group, the solid framework of an arena deal and a proven NBA market that would be paid back, in a way, for losing the Sonics five years ago.
But Johnson's persistence -- and the fortitude of the Kings' fan base and Sacramento community -- put the owners in an unprecedented quandary. On one hand, how could owners reject a sound, agreed-upon purchase agreement between one of their own and a solid ownership group in a desirable market? On the other, how could they set the dangerous precedent of allowing the relocation of a franchise from a city that had done everything it was asked to keep it?
In the end, it was unamimous: The Kings stay. Seattle goes back to work on trying to get a franchise. And Sacramento is rewarded for doing everything in its power to keep its team.