UPDATED 12:24 a.m. ET, April 12
The group of investors making a pitch to buy the Kings and keep them in Sacramento has informed the NBA it will essentially match the offer put forth by a group hoping to move the team to Seattle, a league source confirmed to CBSSports.com.
The detail, first reported by USA Today, means the Sacramento group has agreed to sweeten its offer to account for a $30 million deposit that would be refunded to the Seattle group, led by Chris Hansen and Microsoft chairman Steve Ballmer, if NBA owners scuttle Seattle's bid for the team. Any other financial comparison between the two offers also would have to account for there being no relocation fee associated with a successful bid by the Sacramento group to keep the team in Northern California, but that aspect of the negotiation has been understood from the start of the process.
The Sacramento group, led by Indian billionaire Vivek Ranadive, has been in constant contact with the league office and remains committed to working with the league on the process that has been set forth to purchase the team, a league source said.
The agreement to cover Hansen's $30 million "non-refundable" deposit essentially rendered moot the Maloofs' establishment of a 5 p.m. PT deadline for the Sacramento group to submit a backup offer in writing. The Sacramento group's lawyers also have been in contact with the Maloofs' lawyers as the fate of the Kings pushes toward a possible resolution next week. The deadline is not part of the process the league has set forth, according to multiple sources.
However, late Friday Hansen announced the Seattle group had reached an agreement with the Maloofs to increase by $25 million its offer to buy the team, putting the potential purchase price at an NBA-record $550 million.
"While we already have a binding purchase agreement to purchase the controlling interest in the team, the Seattle ownership group has elected to voluntarily raise its purchase price as a sign of our commitment to bring basketball back to our city and our high degree of confidence in our Arena plan, our financing plan, the economic strength of the Seattle market, individual and corporate support for the team and, most importantly, the future of the NBA," Hansen said in a statement posted on SonicsArena.com.
Hansen's group entered into a binding agreement with the Maloof family in January to purchase the controlling interest of the franchise based on a $525 million value.
The sale of the team now is essentially in the hands of the NBA owners, who will meet April 18-19 in New York to potentially vote on the sale and possible relocation -- if questions raised during a committee meeting earlier this month have been answered. Many of those questions relate to construction timelines and potential obstacles for arena development in both cities.
Since the owners' committee meeting in New York last week, where both groups made presentations, the Sacramento group has changed in complexion. Billionaire Ron Burkle, who was going to spearhead Sacramento's arena project, recently dropped out of the group of proposed equity investors. Burkle cited a conflict of interest because one of his companies manages some NBA players' careers. Burkle also was not viewed favorably by the Maloofs, so it has been suggested his absence from the group could ease the Maloofs' reluctance to negotiate with the Sacramento contingent.
In fact, the Maloofs' attempt to create a deadline to negotiate with the Sacramento group has been viewed in some circles as a step in the right direction for Sacramento because the family has never before indicated a willingness to do so.
Replacing Burkle on the Sacramento team -- which includes Ranadive, 24-Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov, Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs and Sacramento developer Mark Friedman -- is former Facebook executive Chris Kelly. Other investors have asked to join the group, but a person familiar with the situation said Ranadive has been turning additional contributors away because he believes the current group has enough to make a competitive bid for the team.