by James Ham and Jonathan Santiago

Sacramento Kings fans celebrating (Photo: Steven Chea)

The NBA Board of Governors today turned down relocation of the Sacramento Kings to Seattle.  The final vote tally was 22 against and eight in favor of a move to the Pacific Northwest.

“I think that once Sacramento got engaged in doing this and being able to deliver on the promise (of a new arena and ownership), which did not exist when the original deal was made in Seattle, that the principle of advantage to the incumbent was going to prevail…” NBA Commissioner David Stern said to reporters in Dallas when asked if Seattle could have done anything differently to alter the outcome.

Whether the Maloof family now accepts the backup offer from a group of Sacramento investors has not yet been decided.  Today, the NBA only acted upon the relocation of the team.

“It is my expectation that we’ll be able to make a deal with the Maloofs and the Ranadivé Group to transfer title of the team in Sacramento,” said Stern, who also noted that they hope an agreement comes to fruition within the next 24 -48 hours.  “It’s not a certainty, but we’re going to work on that result.”

After today’s decision, Kings co-owner George Maloof was apparently chased down by media into a closet inside the Hilton Anatole hotel in Dallas.  When he emerged, he suggested to those on the scene that he would be discussing his contingent’s next move with his family.

“I can’t really get into all the details of that because it’s just ongoing,” Maloof said of negotiations with the Sacramento group.  “It’s been ongoing.  It’s not like we just started.  It’s been an ongoing backup proposal that we’ve been working on.”

Vivek Ranadivé leads the Sacramento investor team, which among others features 24-Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov and the Jacobs family of tech giant Qualcomm.  They presented the NBA with a $341-million backup offer to purchase the team.  The Ranadivé group is also prepared to sign a 35-year lease in the new downtown arena.

“Our lawyers and the Maloofs lawyers have actually been talking over the last few weeks,” said Ranadivé, who also noted that his group has put all the money needed to buy the Kings into escrow.  “And they continue to do that, so there’s a lot of hard work over the next couple of days, but I fully expect that we’ll get there.”

The Maloofs had an agreement to sell controlling interest of the franchise to hedge fund manager Chris Hansen, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and the Nordstrom family for approximately $406 million.  They also have a backup offer to sell 20 percent of the franchise at a $600-million valuation to the Seattle group.

Hansen did not address media in Dallas today following the vote, but suggested in a statement released on his Sonics Arena website that his group would still be pursuing a deal to become minority owners of the Kings.

While we are obviously extremely disappointed with today’s relocation vote and truly believe we put forth both a significantly better offer and Arena plan, we do thank the league and the owners for their time and consideration and look forward to hearing back on our agreement to join the Maloofs as Limited Partners in the Kings.

But most of all I would like to thank everyone in Seattle who has been a part of our effort and supported our cause. Words simply can’t express how much your support has meant to me personally and to our City. I truly believe we did everything possible to put our best foot forward in this process and you all should be proud and hold your heads high today.

Our day will come…and when it does it will just be that much sweeter for the struggle.

I love you Seattle!

This chapter in the Kings saga all started with a tweet from food blogger Daina Falk, daughter of NBA super-agent David Falk on January 9.  Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports confirmed the news and reported that a deal between the Maloofs and Seattle group was at “first and goal at 1″.  At that time, it seemed Sacramento’s chances of keeping the Kings appeared dead in the water.

But like they have over the last three years, the Sacramento community rallied.  In just over four months, Mayor Kevin Johnson and his staff assembled an ownership group and locked down a new arena deal in the Downtown Plaza shopping mall.

“You kept us in this game day in and day out, so one big thank you to you folks out in Sacramento,” Johnson said of the local community in remarks to media following today’s vote.  “When we were in that room with the other NBA owners, they were listening to our voice because you kept us in the game for this long.  So again thank you Sacramento.”

Updated at 5:25 pm