The clock is ticking for Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson’s efforts to keep the Kings from moving to Seattle.
Speaking at his weekly City Hall news conference, Johnson said Tuesday that the joint committee that will decide whether the Kings leave might want to discuss his city’s proposal before the NBA Board of Governors meeting April 19.
Owners can vote on the pending sale and relocation of the Kings at any time, but the annual meeting in New York is typically when decisions about moving a franchise are made. NBA Commissioner David Stern said last week he combined the two committees that oversee sales and relocations and told them, “You guys figure it out.”
“I’m under the assumption that the joint committee may want to hear from us sooner,” Johnson said. “We’re going to have all the agreements and all the actions and all the documents squared by March 1, as well as if there’s an opportunity to present to the joint committee prior to mid-April, then I feel very confident. We’re going to have all our ducks in order. We’re going to be ready before mid-April if that’s what it takes.”
Johnson plans to be in Houston this weekend during All-Star festivities to lobby league owners and update Stern on Sacramento’s latest efforts.
The Seattle group led by hedge-fund manager Chris Hansen and Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer, which has a pending purchase agreement for the Kings, already has filed for relocation. The relocation of a franchise requires a majority approval of the Board of Governors — which consists of league owners — and the sale of the franchise would require a three-fourths majority. Stern appointed the joint committee to work through the complex deal.
Johnson, a former NBA All-Star, has been promised a chance to present a bid to NBA owners to keep the team in California’s capital city — with a plan to help finance a new downtown arena. The mayor has introduced more than 20 local investors who have pledged at least $1 million each to be minority owners in the team, but he has yet to announce the major equity partners he hopes will anchor a “fair and competitive offer” to present to the league.
Billionaire Ron Burkle, co-owner of the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins, and 24 Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov are among those who have had serious discussions with the mayor. Burkle also met with Stern at league headquarters last month.
In the days left before traveling to Houston, Johnson plans to talk with Sacramento’s corporate community about pledging sponsorship and season-tickets sales to show “the viability of the market.” That includes working with the grass-roots effort “Here We Buy,” which helped boost attendance to 16,193 in Sacramento’s win over Utah on Saturday night.
“You just cannot tell me that when Sacramento presents a comparable, fair, competitive deal to what Seattle’s done and makes good on this arena that this team is going to be plopped and relocated somewhere else,” Johnson said. “At the end of the day, you just can’t tell me that’s going to happen.”
If nothing else, All-Star weekend has produced major developments about the Kings’ future the past two years.
In 2011, Stern said in Los Angeles that that the Kings were exploring a move to Anaheim. Johnson ultimately convinced owners at their April meeting to give his city a chance to help finance a new arena.
In 2012, Johnson traveled to Orlando, Fla., where he reached a tentative agreement — signed off on by Stern — for a new downtown Sacramento arena with Kings owners Joe, Gavin and George Maloof. That agreement collapsed a few weeks later when the Maloofs said the deal didn’t make financial sense for the franchise.
“2013 is kind of the final act,” Johnson said. “It’s act three. So we’re going to Houston knowing what’s at stake. The Seattle people would like you to believe that the deal is done. And the deal is not done in Seattle. We’re going to make sure we get that message out loud and clear.”