Update: 10:36 pm PT
In his effort to resurrect the Seattle SuperSonics, Chris Hansen is raising the stakes. The prospective SuperSonics owner has announced that his group has reached an agreement with the Maloof family to increase its bid for the Sacramento Kings.
“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,” Hansen said in a statement released on his Sonics Arena website. “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.”
The story was first reported by Ian Thomsen of Sports Illustrated. The Seattle group’s financial commitment for the Kings now stands at $357.5 million and raises the franchise’s overall value to $550 million.
In response, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson issued the following statement in a string tweets on Twitter.
“Sacramento is playing to win, including having assembled a world class ownership group; voting to move forward on an arena and securing significant fan and corporate support,” Johnson said. “We know the NBA has never moved a team from a market that has performed and where a clear path to an arena has been demonstrated which is why as we head into the meetings in New York City next week we are following the process established by the NBA.
“That said, we of course are prepared to maintain the full court press we have applied over the last several months to make sure we leave it all on the court,” he added. “For all of these reasons, we feel good about where we stand.”
Hansen’s increased bid follows news from earlier today that the Sacramento group reportedly notified the NBA that it would match the initial $341 million offer by the Seattle contingent. The Maloofs had originally imposed a 5 pm deadline for the prospective ownership team led by software tycoon Vivek Ranadivé to submit a binding, back-up bid.
The family has however apparently softened their stance on that deadline . NBA.com’s David Aldridge writes that the Maloofs are giving the Sacramento group “as late as through this weekend” to deliver a written offer. But according to multiple reports, the league is not endorsing the deadline set by the Kings owners.
Earlier today, another major investor stepped up in Sacramento’s effort to keep the Kings. Chris Kelly, a former executive with Facebook, has joined the prospective ownership group led by Ranadivé.
“I am very excited to be a part of this once in a lifetime opportunity,” Kelly said in statement issued on Facebook. “Buying the Kings is much bigger and more important than the purchase of a basketball team. This group of California leaders and entrepreneurs are going to transform the Capitol of our great state and rebuild an incredible franchise.
“After talking with Mayor Johnson and Vivek, I know this is going to be a very special experience and I can’t wait to get started,” he added.
The Bee first reported Kelly’s addition. A source told the Bee that Ranadivé had been in talks with the new investor for more than two months and that Kelly’s name was brought up last week during Sacramento’s presentation to the NBA in New York.
“Chris Kelly was an instrumental part of one of the most revolutionary businesses of our generation,” Ranadivé said, beginning a string of tweets commenting on Kelly’s addition. “He is a visionary leader in business and public policy.”
Ranadivé added that Kelly’s background in new media technologies make him an attractive inclusion in a major-equity group that already features 24-Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov and the Jacobs Family of wireless tech giant Qualcomm.
“Chris’ knowledge and experience in digital and social media is critical to our ultimate objective of making the Kings a true 21st Century global franchise in the NBA,” Ranadivé tweeted. “I am excited and honored that I can now call @thatchriskelly a partner as we continue towards the goal of keeping the Kings in Sacramento.”
According to the Bee, the mayor connected Kelly and Ranadivé.
“This is exciting news!” the mayor tweeted earlier this morning. “I’ve gotten to know @thatchriskelly through Democratic politics and his leadership on important issues. When we started this project, I never imagined so many important leaders from across CA (becoming) a part of it.
“We have Californians who’ve helped create Tibco, 24 Hour Fitness, Qualcomm, and now, Facebook all working for the future of Sacramento,” Johnson added, concluding his string of tweets on the news.
Kelly spent five years working as Chief Privacy Officer and Head of Global Public Policy for the world’s largest social network. The bay area native then dove into the world of politics when he ran for California Attorney General in 2010.
Meanwhile in the Pacific Northwest, a judge struck down a lawsuit against Initiative 91. The local law requires public subsidy used in investments for professional sports teams to guarantee a profit. The city of Seattle has an agreement with prospective SuperSonics ownership to contribute up to $200 million for a new arena in the Sodo district.
According to the Seattle Times, King County Judge Laura Middaugh decided there were too many unknowns to make a fair ruling right now.
“This ruling is yet another in a long line of affirmations that the city & county are doing things right to bring the Sonics home,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine on Twitter.