NBA Commissioner David Stern said Wednesday night that the group that has reached agreement to purchase the Sacramento Kings has formally filed to relocate the franchise to Seattle.
Stern spoke in Minneapolis before the Timberwolves hosted San Antonio. He called the Seattle group, led by Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer, "very strong," and said the appropriate committees have been convened to look over the proposed sale of the Kings and the prospective move to Seattle.
"We have had submitted a signed agreement to have the team sold to a very strong group from Seattle," Stern said.
The deadline for teams to file for relocation is March 1. It's been expected that the Hansen/Ballmer group would file to move the team, but Stern's comments were the first time that decision has been verified. The filing for relocation is ultimately a procedural step, but a big one in the efforts to bring professional basketball back to Seattle.
Hansen's group reached agreement with the Maloof family last month to buy 65 percent of the franchise, which is valued at $525 million, and move the team to Seattle and restore the SuperSonics name. The deal will cost the Hansen group a little more than $340 million.
The Kings' sale price of $525 million would surpass the NBA record $450 million the Golden State Warriors sold for in 2010.
Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson has been making efforts to find investors with the financial means and could attempt to match the sale price, keep the Kings in Sacramento and help on the construction of a new arena in California's capital city.
Johnson said on Tuesday that he planned to attend the NBA All-Star Game in Houston and lobby anyone he could on the merits of keeping the Kings in Sacramento, but he has yet to reveal any of the large equity investors he's attempting to pull together. Johnson said Tuesday he hoped to be able to announce them next week.
Stern said Wednesday he didn't feel the situation between Seattle and Sacramento would turn into battle to see who can make the most lucrative bid.
"I don't think it's a bidding war," Stern continued. "There's a series of issues that are defined by our constitution that have to be considered. One of the things that our board is mandated to consider is the support for the team in the prior city. So there are real issues for the board to consider, about the buildings, about the likelihood they will be built, about the support from the cities."
Two committees would typically vet both the proposed sale and the move of the franchise to Seattle, but Stern said he has combined the committees into one. The committee will report to the Board of Governors, which is expected to vote on both the sale and the proposed move at its meeting in mid-April.
The sale of the franchise requires just a majority approval of the Board of Governors. The relocation of the franchise would require a three-fourths majority.
"So I did the sensible thing, I combined the committees and said, `You guys figure it out.' We'll see how that works," Stern said.