There are a lot of moving parts in the Sacramento Kings saga, and things have gotten more complicated by the day. Where a little over a week ago it appeared things may be winding down, now everything is up in the air again -- or at least, that's the perception. Seattle investor Chris Hansen upped his bid to buy the Maloofs' 65-percent majority share of the Kings on Friday to a $625 million valuation of the franchise, while also making a few other moves that have caused ripples.
What does it all mean at this point? We'll do this in question-and-answer format in an effort to parse things down to somewhat digestible portions. Fair warning, though: nothing is clear in this saga and information continues to change quickly.
Why did Hansen up his offer?
The short answer: the increase in his bid was one of the last chips he had remaining to play. The NBA Relocation Committee voted to deny his bid to move the Kings to Seattle, and the full Board of Governors was expected to follow the recommendation. Hansen and his group -- a group that includes Steve Ballmer -- has a lot of cash, and money does talk. So he upped the valuation in an effort to price the Sacramento group out.
Is this desperation? A power play? Something else?
Yes. Yes to all, depending on how you look at it. As with everything else in this saga, how things are interpreted depends on which side you're on. The Sacramento side views this as an act of desperation, and it may be! It could be a last resort. The Seattle side views it as a bold power play by a man who won't take no for an answer, and it might be!
There's no right or wrong answer here. Hansen's decision to increase his offer has been spun around and around, as one would expect.
Could Hansen buy the Kings and keep them in Sacramento, at least temporarily?
Sure, in theory. For whatever reason, that has been put on the table in the last week. But doing so creates an even messier situation and is only a precursor to burning things to the ground in Sacramento and then moving the team to Seattle. It's the same thing Clay Bennett did. Nobody wants a repeat of that situation, which was incredibly ugly for all parties involved. I just don't see it happening.
And what about this "backup plan?"
In yet another play for the team, Hansen also cut a backup deal with the Maloofs to purchase a portion of their majority share -- 20 percent, to be exact. This would give the Maloofs a quick influx of cash while allowing them to avoid selling to the Sacramento group. It would also give Hansen the opportunity to purchase the full majority share at some point within the next two years.
Sound nuts? Of course. Just like everything else in this saga, it's a wild twist. And yes, the Board of Governors would have to approve after rejecting the bid for 65 percent of the team. One thing seems to be clear from all of this: the Maloofs really, really don't want to sell to Sacramento.
And the relocation fee?
Hansen is reportedly offering $115 million to relocate the team, dwarfing the $30 million Clay Bennett paid to move the Sonics. That's ... that's a lot of money, and works out to about $4 million per owner.
Are Hansen's latest maneuvers going to anger the relocation committee and Board of Governors?
I've seen this idea floated, and maybe it's a possibility. The thinking goes that the relocation committee made its recommendation and Hansen was expected to gracefully bow out, take the deal off the table and allow Sacramento to complete the purchase. That may have been a less messy way to end this. He didn't, however, and instead made another play for the team. So, sure, it could anger the committees and owners.
At the same time, NBA owners are businessmen, and business is a shrewd, cutthroat game where just about anything goes. One can argue that they understand this happens with high-stakes transactions, and one can also argue that neither side was going to go down quietly. There's a lot of money on the table and a lot at stake.
Hansen feels like there's no better time than now. He has the funding and land, and Seattle made the necessary political moves to get the ball rolling on an arena. There are no guarantees when it comes to the future, be it expansion, another franchise moving or otherwise. Hansen has come right to the edge with Sacramento, and who knows if he, or Seattle, will get this close again, even despite pats on the back and "you'll get a franchise someday" from the masses.
It's not surprising that Hansen would exhaust every avenue. Were the roles reversed, I would expect Sacramento would do the same.
Does the Sacramento group have the money to get this sale done?
Sure! Vivek Ranadive and his group of investors have the money. They're very wealthy individuals. They've put half of the money needed to purchase the team on a $525 million valuation in escrow. But there have been reports that the Sacramento group is scrambling to get the rest of the money together and perhaps soliciting minority investors to help -- a claim Ranadive has also denied.
If they have the money, why hasn't it all been put into escrow?
There's a difference between being worth enough money to purchase an NBA team and that money being liquid enough to complete the sale. In other words, the investors are wealthy but that money is tied up in assets, stock and other investments. It's not cash. Individuals with a high net worth typically don't have hundreds of millions of dollars in cash lying around.* Getting that money liquid in a short amount of time isn't easy.
*Except Bill Gates. There are stacks on stacks on stacks of cash that just happen to fall out of his pockets and into his couch. A billion here or there doesn't make a dent anyway, so no big deal.
Will the Sacramento group be able to get the full purchase price into escrow this week?
Who knows! I wouldn't bet against them, though. Where there's a will, there's a way, and the Sacramento group has a strong track record of finding a way to get things done throughout this whole saga.
What about that relocation committee vote?
The relocation committee voted to recommend denying the Seattle group's bid to move the team from Sacramento by a 7-0 margin. Since then, there have been whispers, rumors and murmurs that the vote was initially 4-3 in favor of Sacramento and that a second vote was unanimous. Those whispers and rumors became a report from Art Thiel on Friday, but we'll probably never know for sure what happened. The NBA adamantly denied a split vote and the only people who truly know were on that call and those who were aren't going to spill it.
Logically, it would make sense that an initial vote was split. A unanimous vote was a surprise after we'd heard about how agonizing and difficult a decision was. Coming out with a unanimous recommendation made a statement. Announcing a split vote would've made a different statement: "We don't know." It's akin to not making a recommendation at all, and would've been a waste of everyone's time.
If the vote was split, and if a second vote yielded a unanimous decision -- both big ifs at this point -- it tells us that those who changed their votes weren't married to a side either way. This would also make sense: the Kings sale has been a lot to chew on for the owners and it's likely that the three -- if there were three -- weren't necessarily entrenched.
No matter what happened, the relocation committee's vote was the most recent and significant statement from the NBA. No matter how much noise there has been since, the recommendation still gives Sacramento the upper hand as things stand now.
Does the recommendation matter, and does it matter whether it was unanimous at first or not?
Maybe! Or maybe not! The relocation committee made its recommendation and owners, falling in line, are likely to follow it. But the vote isn't necessarily binding, either. Things can change, or things can stay the same and fall in line with the committee recommendation. Nothing would be surprising here.
Do the Maloofs have to sell to Sacramento?
The simple answer is no. The NBA can pressure and lean on the Maloofs in an effort to get them to sell to the hometown group, but cannot force them to sell the team. We do, however, know the Maloofs need money -- thus the sale of the team. Desperate individuals who need money quickly are rather unpredictable.
Who's the villain in this?
Every good story needs a villain, right? Of course. And depending on who you ask, the Kings saga has numerous villains.
There's Chris Hansen, the man who is coming for Sacramento's team. I get the feeling if the roles were reversed, however, and Hansen was fighting to keep the team in Sacramento, he'd be admired. He's shrewd and doesn't take no for an answer. He, like Sacramento, is putting up a strong fight.
David Stern, right or wrong, has been a villain in Seattle since the Sonics left. And the perception is out there that he's been working to help Sacramento and undermine the Seattle bid. There's never been any love lost for him in the Northwest.
Hello Maloofs! Sacramento hated the Maloofs before this latest mess started and they'll continue to be public enemy No. 1 in the city. The family has some kind of grudge against Sacramento, and the fans understandably hold one against them. That's probably never going to change, and I don't blame Sacramento fans one bit. Actively working to screw the city one last time just isn't a good look.
In short, just about wherever you look, there's someone to hate here.
What's the endgame here?
Nobody knows. Anyone that tells you they know how this will all play out is disingenuous at best and lying at worst. The Kings sale is complicated, and as we've seen over the past few months, it's also filled with twists and turns. Hansen's group appears to have the Board of Governors' attention, so much so that they're meeting before the scheduled Wednesday vote to sort out the latest developments. What happens from there is up in the air.
There are many possibilities still left on the table, and we just don't know where the NBA is going with this. There could be a decision one way or another on Wednesday. Perhaps the league will revisit expansion. The fight may move from the boardrooms to the courtrooms, as well. Everything seems to be on the table in one way or another.
But just to reiterate things one more time: Sacramento still has the upper hand in a significant way in the wake of the relocation committee's recommendation.The Seattle group is making a lot of noise at the moment, where Sacramento was making the noise before the relocation committee vote. The odds and everything else still favor Sacramento here, despite the new-found hope on the Seattle side.
Who's going to take this to court?
I don't expect the Hansen group to sue. It's suicide to do so, and is an all-or-nothing move that will leave a bitter taste in everyone's mouth. Lose, and Hansen and Seattle are probably done. Win, and there will still be leftover animosity.
The Maloofs, however, are the wildcard. The maneuvering over the past week seems to be an effort to build a case and increase leverage. If the Maloofs are forced to take, say, a deal worth $60 million less, they might have a case. And we know the Maloofs don't care about burning bridges and going scorched earth at this point -- one way or another, they're going to end up out of the league.
And, again, this could all be a leverage play to make the owners think the Maloofs are building a case. The threat of a lawsuit is powerful, especially when it could change the league in the future.
It there any way both Sacramento and Seattle can win?
Expansion. Making both sides whole would be a win-win. But as far as anyone knows, expansion isn't on the table now and it may be a few years before it's even explored.
The NBA therefore must make a difficult decision now. On one side, they have a group of very qualified owners offering a lot of money for a franchise. On the other, they have an incumbent city that has mounted a feverish comeback to save its team. In the middle is a current ownership group -- the Maloofs -- that wants to sell to the Seattle group and doesn't appear to want to deal with the incumbent city, out of spite or what have you. It's a mess.
Whether all of these latest moves have forced the NBA to reconsider expansion remains to be seen. But unless the NBA goes to 31, someone is going to end up spurned and their hearts broken.
So will we get an answer this week?
I think everyone hopes we'll have some kind of final decision this week, but with all the last-minute maneuvering and all the questions, it seems unlikely. Even if the Board of Governors does cast votes on all the issues in front of them, it feels like this could continue to stay up in the air, especially with the Maloofs dragging their feet.
This just needs to end, one way or another, so everyone involved can get back to their lives and back to basketball.
One last request that will probably fall on deaf ears. Please be civil in the comments. It's possible -- and rewarding, in fact -- to have a civil conversation about this issue. I understand that fans on both sides are passionate. But there's no need to call each other names and make things ugly. I've had plenty of very civil discussions about the Kings over the past month and learned many things along the way. Please try it, and be respectful.