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Sacramento Kings sale to Seattle: A complete timeline of events

How did we get to the point where the Sacramento Kings were being sold and relocated to Seattle? Here's a timeline of the events in both cities.

Ethan Miller

The Sacramento Kings' reported impending sale to a Seattle-based group was a move that was several years in the making. Ever since 2006, when the Sonics first appeared to be on the move to Oklahoma City, the city has pined to get its team back. Meanwhile, the Maloofs' problems in Sacramento date back to around the same time period, and there have been many stops and starts in between.

Here's our best attempt to come up with a complete timeline of events that allowed this sale to happen.


July, 2006: Howard Shultz, the CEO of Starbucks, sells the Supersonics for $350 million to an investment group headed by Clay Bennett, an Oklahoma City businessman. Despite the Oklahoma City connection, the thought was that Bennett would try to keep the team in Seattle.

November, 2006: Meawnhile, in Sacramento, the Maloofs' proposal to raise taxes to help fund the construction of a new arena fails when voters overwhelmingly vote no on the proposal. This is the first sign of friction between the city and the Maloofs.

August, 2007: Aubrey McClendon, Bennett's minority partner, tells an Oklahoma City paper that he never intended to keep the Sonics in Seattle. David Stern fines him $250,000.

September-October, 2007: Due to lagging revenue, Bennett tried to ask taxpayers to fund a $500 million renovation to Key Arena. When they balked, Bennett asked for arbitration to get out of the lease to the stadium before it was supposed to end in 2010. The city of Seattle filed a countersuit demanding the team stay in Seattle until then. (Here's that suit).

"The issues with the Sonics' profitability at KeyArena have less to do with KeyArena than perhaps with the Sonics' ability to defend the high pick-and-roll," Seattle City Attorney Tom Carr said.

Meanwhile, in Sacramento, the NBA's plans to help fund a new arena at the Cal Expo leak. This plan is deemed to be much more cost-efficient than the previous plan. Negotiations go on for the next couple years.

November, 2007: Frustrated that the city could not finance a renovation on Key Arena, Bennett informs the NBA that he intends to move to Oklahoma City as soon as the arena lease expires. The only way out: if the city funds a new arena.

March, 2008: Microsoft CEO Steve Balmer emerges as a possible buyer of the franchise that would keep the team in Seattle, but his efforts come up short a month later.

April, 2008: Internal emails leaked to the Seattle Times suggested that Bennett and his ownership group had intended to move to Oklahoma City as far back as April, 2007. "Is there any way to move here [Oklahoma City] for next season or are we doomed to have another lame duck season in Seattle?" one co-owner wrote.

In response, Shultz files a lawsuit to try to get the Sonics back, claiming that Bennett's group didn't negotiate in good faith.

July, 2008: A settlement is reached that allows the Sonics to move to Oklahoma City under certain conditions. Those include: a $45 million payment to Seattle, plus additional payments if no other team relocated by 2013. In addition, the Oklahoma City franchise could not use the SuperSonics name. Stern either supported or did not fight back vigorously enough against the relocation throughout this process, depending on who you ask.

August, 2008: Shultz is forced to withdraw his suit to try to get the Sonics back. The franchise officially begins play in Oklahoma City later this year.


February, 2009: The Sacramento Business Journal unveils the NBA's plan for the Cal Expo project, and it turns out to be a much bigger arrangement than anyone expected. The plan calls for a $1.9 billion development, with the arena functioning as the hub of a "city within a city."

September, 2009: But by now, city officials lose optimism that the deal can get done. Writes Mayor Kevin Johnson: "Today I fear the Cal Expo discussions -- like so many that came before -- won't bring results fast enough, if at all. Clearly, the time for discussion at Cal Expo is running out."

October, 2009: A story in the San Jose Mercury News suggests the Kings' owners have talked to city officials about a possible relocation. The Maloofs quickly affirm their commitment to Sacramento.

September, 2010: The Cal Expo plan essentially reaches a dead end when a measure to swap land with the current site of the now-named Sleep Train Pavilion fails.

October, 2010: "Here We Stay" launches.


January, 2011: A report leaks that the Maloofs have been in discussions with Ducks owner Henry Samueli to move the team to Anaheim. Samueli reportedly offers the Maloofs an $100 million load to help pay off any relocation and arena fees.

February, 2011: The Kings ask for and receive an extension on a March 1 deadline to present a relocation plan to the league so they can evaluate their options in Anaheim. It eventually gets pushed back to April 18.

May, 2011: After evaluating their options, the Maloofs decide to remain in Sacramento for at least one more season. "If an arena plan cannot be finalized in a timely fashion, the NBA's relocation committee has assured Maloof Sports and Entertainment that it will support an application to move the franchise to another market starting in 2012-13," the statement reads.

A financing plan for a new arena in downtown Sacramento by the Union Pacific railyards is unveiled later in the month. Both the NBA and the Maloofs release statements expressing their optimism that the plan will go through.

September, 2011: A developer is chosen for the construction of the new downtown arena in Sacramento, which is seen as a huge step forward. AEG, the same group that helped build the STAPLES Center and other venues, is behind the project.

February, 2012: MEANWHILE, a group of Seattle investors, led by Chris Hansen, come forward saying that they are working on a deal to build a new arena to bring a team back to the city. The arena would be located near Safeco Field. In the story, the Kings are mentioned as a possible target.

As this is happening, negotiations between the city of Sacramento, the NBA and the Maloofs on the financing of the new downtown arena continue in earnest.

February 27, 2012: Mayor Kevin Johnson announces that the "framework" for a financing plan to fund the new arena has been agreed upon by all sides. It is slated to be put up to a vote by the Sacramento city council in early March. The plan calls for the city to pay just over $255 million of the $391 million needed for the new downtown complex. The Maloofs are slated to pay just over $73 million. All parties confirm the news, and the Maloofs celebrate with their fans at the next home game.

March 6, 2012: The Sacramento City Council votes, 7-2, to approve the funding plan presented to build the downtown arena. The new building is slated to open in 2015. There is much rejoicing in Sacramento.


April 10, 2012: Rumors that the Maloofs want to redo the deal bubble to the surface when George Maloof says he wants to "start negotiating this thing again."

April 13, 2012: The Maloofs hold a confusing press conference announcing the problems they had with the deal agreed upon in late February by all parties. The large argument: the family agreed to the framework of a deal, but not an actual deal. All hell breaks loose.

Johnson strongly opposed additional negotiation: "Under no circumstances will the City make material adjustments to the current terms of the deal," Johnson wrote in a letter. "Put simply, we have done our part."

David Stern, meanwhile, was more melancholy than upset: "I think it's fair for Maloofs to say they didn't want to do it." Stern said. "If they did it a little earlier, a little simpler and a little more directly, it could have saved some angst." He would only commit to the team being in Sacramento next year.

The rest of the owners are reportedly incensed at the Maloofs for letting this arena deal fall apart. There's some talk of renovations to the now-named Sleep Train Pavilion, but those obviously fall flat.


August 28, 2012: A new player emerges in the Kings relocation talks. The Virginia Beach City Council hears a plan from Comcast Spectacor, the owners of the Philadelphia Flyers, to fund an arena in that city. Negotiations begin on this plan.

September 24, 2012: The Seattle City Council voted, 6-2, to approve plans to build a new arena in Sodo.

October 15, 2012: The King County Council affirmed the Seattle City Council vote.

December 8, 2012: The Virginia Beach plan takes a hit when governor Bob McDonnell's proposed budget for 2013 doesn't include the $150 million developers hoped would help begin funding for the new arena.


January 8, 2013: The Virginia Beach plan essentially dies for good when the city's mayor and executives from Comcast Spectacor announce that time has run out to get the construction started in 2012.

January 9, 2013: The news is swift. Yahoo! Sports reports that a deal is near to sell the Kings to Hansen's Seattle group for $500 million. The Kings will play two years in the old Key Arena starting in 2013-14 and will move into the new Seattle arena thereafter. The group has until March to officially file for relocation with the NBA.