Vivek Ranadive and Kevin Johnson at a press conference in April (Jesse D. Garrabrant/ Getty).
One day after the NBA's Board of Governors voted against a sale to an ownership group that would turned the Sacramento Kings into a new incarnation of the Seattle SuperSonics, it appears that the franchise will stay in its current home over the long term. As first reported by The Sacramento Bee and later confirmed by several outlets on Thursday night, Joe and Gavin Maloof have reached an agreement to sell the Kings to a local ownership group headed by tech executive Vivek Ranadive.
A person familiar with the deal says the Maloof family has reached an agreement with a Sacramento group headed by TIBCO software tycoon Vivek Ranadive to sell a 65 percent controlling interest in the Kings at a total franchise valuation of $535 million.
The person, speaking on condition of anonymity to The Associated Press late Thursday night because they weren't authorized to talk publicly, said there are about 30 investors in the group put together by Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, a former All-Star guard.
An official announcement is expected Friday. The NBA is expected to officially approve the agreement next week. The person said the agreement has to be closed by May 31.
At various points in this process, the Maloofs expressed no interest in dealing with the group led by Ranadive and organized by Johnson, instead claiming that they had a backup offer in place with Seattle bid leader Chris Hansen for a minority stake in the franchise. However, that situation changed once the NBA voted down the Seattle sale on Wednesday. NBA Commissioner David Stern stated that he expected talks between the Maloofs and Ranadive to begin within 48 hours, and that appears to have happened.
The $535 million valuation is significantly less than Hansen and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's figure of $625 million, although that offer was itself bumped up to sweeten the deal after the initial valuation first reported in January. In practice, the Sacramento group will pay roughly $347 million for the Maloofs' 65 percent stake. It's unclear if the unique circumstances of this sale will have a major effect on NBA franchise valuations moving forward, but if they do, then the entire NBA ruling class will benefit financially from this deal.
Meanwhile, Kings fans can breathe a sigh of relief. In the past 18 months, the Maloofs have attempted to move to the team to Virginia Beach, reneged on a handshake agreement with Johnson for a new arena in Sacramento, attempted to sell the team to this Seattle group, and generally done everything possible to alienate and insult the city's fan base. The sale to Ranadive and his partners promises a new beginning, an opportunity to install functional (or at least improved) leadership and carry the Kings into a more optimistic era complete with a new, state-of-the-art arena and a renewed sense of pride in the franchise.
To be sure, that process will be difficult. Although the Maloofs presided over the Kings' greatest successes in Sacramento during the early '00s, the last few seasons of their reign have been beset by a lack of direction and various cost-cutting efforts. In truth, the basketball team has been less the focus of the action than incidental to the real drama surrounding the Kings' future. Everyone involved with the team can now begin to transfer interest back to where it belongs and attempt to turn the Kings back into a playoff contender.
There are several procedural issues that must be sorted out before Ranadive can officially take over the team, but those appear to be mere formalities. It's time for Sacramento to celebrate the return of the Kings.
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