SEATTLE – Nearly five years after their colors, banners and history were packed away into storage and their franchise relocated, the SuperSonics are one significant step closer to returning to Seattle.
And the Kings are on the edge of leaving Sacramento.
All that appears to stand in the way now is approval by NBA owners.
The Maloof family agreed to sell the Kings to a Seattle group led by investor Chris Hansen, the league confirmed in a statement Monday morning. The deal is still pending a vote by the NBA Board of Governors.
A person familiar with the decision said that Hansens group will buy 65 percent of the franchise, which is valued at $525 million, and move the team to Seattle and restore the SuperSonics name. The deal will cost the Hansen group a little more than $340 million. The Maloofs will have no stake in the team.
The Maloofs will get a $30 million non-refundable down payment by Feb. 1, according to the deal, an anonymous source said. They will still be allowed to receive other offers until the league approves the sale. The Kings sale price would surpass the NBA record $450 million for the Golden State Warriors in 2010.
The plan by Hansens group is to have the team play at least the next two seasons in KeyArena before moving into a new facility in downtown Seattle. The deadline for teams to apply for a move is March 1. The office of Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn confirmed Monday it is already working with Hansen on an agreement to use KeyArena.
Momentum was building toward a sale agreement after word of talks between Hansen and the Maloofs leaked nearly two weeks ago. Sacramento will get its chance to counter with Mayor Kevin Johnson already receiving permission from NBA Commissioner David Stern to present a counteroffer to league owners from buyers who would keep the Kings in Sacramento.
Johnson, himself a former All-Star point guard in the NBA, said in a statement that the city remained undeterred.
Yet Johnson will be fighting an uphill challenge trying to pull together an ownership group in a small window of time while Seattle begins preparing for the return of the green and gold.
The SuperSonics became a historic footnote when owner Clay Bennett moved the franchise to Oklahoma City in 2008. It ended 41 years of pro basketball in Seattle.