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NBA's Kings sold to Sacramento group

$347 million deal includes new downtown arena

NEW YORK - The Sacramento Kings were sold to a group led by software billionaire Vivek Ranadive, who will become the first Indian-born owner in National Basketball Association history.

A Sacramento-based group led by Ranadive signed an agreement to purchase the team from the Maloof family, Mayor Kevin Johnson said Friday in a news conference.

The group paid $347 million for a 65 percent stake in the team, according to the Sacramento Bee. The deal, which includes a plan for a new downtown arena, values the Kings at $535 million, the most expensive in league history, and ends a five-month battle about the team’s future.

Johnson, a former NBA All-Star, took the podium at the news conference as Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours,” played over the speakers. He opened by asking those in attendance to repeat after him: “We did it.”

“This is something that will define Sacramento,” he said. “It is transformative. This community that we know and love will never be the same because of what has transpired.”

The 55-year-old Ranadive is a native of Mumbai, India, and founder of Tibco Software Inc. NBA Commissioner David Stern has spoken often about the league’s interest in expanding into the world’s second-most-populous country, including NBA-sponsored events and the possible creation of an NBA-branded league.

Ranadive didn’t attend the news conference, which was carried live on the league’s website.

NBA team owners voted 22-8 two days ago to reject a proposal to relocate the Kings to Seattle, ending the Maloofs’ preferred sale to a group led by Valiant Capital founder Chris Hansen and Microsoft Corp. Chief Executive Steve Ballmer.

That vote, two weeks after a 12-member panel of team owners unanimously recommended that the NBA turn down Hansen’s offer, ended the Seattle group’s $625 million bid, leading the Maloofs to turn to Ranadive’s group. Seattle had an NBA team from 1967 to 2008, when the SuperSonics were sold and moved to Oklahoma City.

Ranadive will sell his minority stake in the NBA’s Golden State Warriors, who in 2010 were sold for $450 million, the previous league record.

His group, assembled by Johnson, includes 24 Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov and former Facebook executive Chris Kelly.

In 28 years in Sacramento, the Kings made the playoffs 10 times, only once advancing past the Western Conference semifinals. Attendance has been in the bottom fifth of the league for the last six seasons.

This year, the team went 28-54 and drew an average home attendance of 13,749, a league low.

Johnson said that Kings fans would reverse that trend. The team has sold out 19 of its 28 seasons in the city, he said.

“Sacramento will have no problem making the NBA look smart,” he said.

The sale includes a plan to build a $448 million arena downtown in California’s capital city. The Maloofs reached a deal with Sacramento in February 2012 to build an arena, only to have the accord fall through within two months.

Stern, who made his first trip to India in April, said last year at the Bloomberg Sports Business Summit that the NBA sponsors the Mahindra NBA Challenge, a grassroots clinic that started in 2011, and is scheduling a four-city tournament presented by Coca-Cola Co.’s Sprite brand, which will include more than 100 teams in Delhi, Hyderabad, Chennai and Mumbai.

The NBA has games broadcast on India’s TV networks, including Taj TV’s Ten Sports. It has an office in Mumbai.

The Kings franchise began in 1948 in Rochester, N.Y., as the Royals; moved to Cincinnati in 1958; became the Kansas City-Omaha Kings from 1972 to 1975; and was the Kansas City Kings from 1976 to 1985 before moving to Sacramento. The team’s only NBA title was in 1951.

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