Source: Kings' owners want to keep hand in running NBA team
The family that owns the Sacramento Kings wants to maintain a say in how the team is run if they sell it to Chris Hansen.
Seattle Times staff reporter
The Maloof family will listen to offers to sell the Sacramento Kings, but it might not be willing to walk away from the team entirely — creating a possible snag in the team's rumored move to Seattle.
The Seattle Times learned from an NBA source Thursday that the family that owns the Kings wants to keep a say in how the team is run, even if they sell it to Chris Hansen, who has a deal in place to build a new arena in Seattle if he can buy a team to play in it.
The Maloof family has owned the team since 1998. Brothers Joe and Gavin — the two oldest of the five-member family — have been particularly involved and visible presences in the franchise since day one.
An initial Yahoo! Sports report Wednesday on the possible sale, since confirmed by others, stated that the family would retain a small percentage in the team. But the question now, according to the NBA source, is whether that percentage also would allow the Maloofs some say in how the team is run.
The source said the sale of the team for the Maloofs goes beyond dollars and cents and stressed how important being involved in the NBA has been to the family.
James Ham, who helps run a website devoted to the Kings, said the news was not a surprise given the family's history with the NBA.
George Maloof Sr., father of Joe, Gavin and three others, owned the Houston Rockets when he died of a heart attack at 57. The family sold the team two years later, in 1982.
"They repeatedly said over the years that selling the Houston Rockets was their biggest regret ever because it took them years to get back into the league," Ham said. "They tried multiple times, and it took them years to get back."
The family had long said they might move the team unless they could get a new arena, but they never said they would consider selling it until news broke this week that the family was negotiating with Hansen's group, which also includes Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and members of the Nordstrom family.
The Sacramento Bee quoted a source Thursday as saying the family doesn't necessarily want to sell the team but will listen to offers. Hansen's group is reported to be offering roughly $500 million for the Kings, which would be the most ever paid for an NBA franchise.
The Maloofs, whose business interests have included beer, transportation, gaming and entertainment, have reportedly had financial troubles in recent years, perhaps making them more willing to consider selling the team. They also were unable to get a new arena built in Sacramento and failed in a bid to move the team to Anaheim in 2011.
Negotiations between Hansen's group and the Maloofs reportedly have been ongoing for a week or so, and some reports Wednesday characterized them as almost done. Yahoo! Sports quoted a source as saying it was "first and goal at the one."
Sacramento News 10 reporter Bryan May, however, tweeted that George Maloof Jr. — the fourth-youngest of the family of five — said a deal was not close.
The Sacramento Bee, meanwhile, reported that the family has not had contact with Hansen's group since before Jan. 1 and hasn't received an official offer for the team.
However, the Bee's source was quoted as saying "I fully expect we will see something."
Ham says the family, which also includes brother Phil and sister Adrienne Maloof-Nassif, a star on the reality-TV show "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills," generally makes major decisions as one. A decision on the Kings, though, likely comes down to Joe, Gavin and George.
George Maloof has been regarded as not as emotionally invested in the NBA and more willing to do what is best for the family financially.
"The family dynamic is basically two guys who love the limelight, love to stand on the sidelines and jump up and down and celebrate, and another guy who has never really been into it," Ham said.
The NBA source said that getting out of the league could be difficult for Joe and Gavin Maloof and that some observers might underestimate what it means to them to be franchise owners.
How big of a sticking point that may be in negotiations, though, remains unclear.
Neither Hansen's group nor the NBA has commented on reports of a possible deal.
The NBA has an annual deadline of March 1 for teams to apply for relocation — though that has been extended in the past. Optimally, Hansen's group would have a deal in place by the deadline to apply for relocating the team to Seattle for the 2013-14 season. It would play at KeyArena for two years while the new arena is built.
Plans to build a $490 million arena were approved by the Seattle City Council and the Metropolitan King County Council in October.
Seattle has been without an NBA team since 2008 when the Sonics were moved to Oklahoma City by new owner Clay Bennett.
Hansen has spent the past year laying the groundwork for an arena deal and attempting to buy a team to move to Seattle.
After reports surfaced Wednesday of a possible deal to buy the Kings, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson said he would attempt to find a local buyer to keep the team there. There was no additional word on those efforts Thursday.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699