Prospective Seattle Sonics investor revealed as major donor to Sacramento Kings anti-arena efforts
Updated at 9:25 pm
It’s been a little more than three months since Chris Hansen’s effort to purchase and relocate the Sacramento Kings to Seattle came to an abrupt end. However, a startling revelation revealed today seems to suggest that Hansen has yet to give up on his pursuit of the franchise.
At a press conference at their Downtown Sacramento offices, California’s Fair Political Practices Commission announced that Hansen was the secret donor behind a major financial contribution to an effort hoping to slow down the construction of a new downtown arena.
Paperwork filed today with the FPPC shows that the San Francisco-based hedge fund manager gave $100,000 to Citizens for a Voice in Government, a newly formed political action committee assisting anti-arena sentiment in Sacramento. According to an FPPC document, Hansen’s contribution was made on Jun. 21, more than a month after the NBA voted against relocating the Kings to Seattle. It was also supposed to be disclosed to the FPPC by the end of July.
Hansen’s funds were handled by Loeb & Loeb, the law firm that represented the Maloofs in the failed effort to move the Kings to Seattle. To date, $20,000 of his contribution remains unspent.
“Chris Hansen, I think it’s no mystery to anyone, has a lot of resources and has the ability to get any type of help he wants for complying with the law,” said Gary Winuk, chief of the FPPC’s enforcement division, late this afternoon. “Loeb & Loeb is a major law firm. So these are very sophisticated parties who should know that these disclosure laws are out there and be able to comply with them.”
Last week, the FPPC learned that an $80,000 check was written by Loeb & Loeb on behalf of an anonymous donor. The FPPC then demanded that paperwork revealing the identity of that donor be filed. An extension on the original Wednesday deadline was requested and granted for 12 pm yesterday, but was missed by Hansen and the involved parties. The FPPC finally received paperwork from the violators late this afternoon.
Hansen, the committee and its treasurer could face steep penalties for failing to disclose his identity in the donation. According to Winnuk, fines from $5,000 to $80,000 could be levied against them and violations of the political reform act could also be prosecuted as a misdemeanor. Winnuk also added that Loeb & Loeb and anti-arena groups like STOP (Sacramento Taxpayers Opposed to Pork) are not liable for any misconduct at this time.
In January, Hansen came to a binding agreement with the Maloof family to purchase controlling interest in the Kings with the intent of moving them to Seattle. His efforts were thwarted after city officials and Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson came up with a viable plan to build a new arena at the Downtown Plaza and identified a local ownership group led by Vivek Ranadivé that vowed to keep the Kings in town.
Late this evening, Hansen addressed the news in a statement on his Sonics Arena website, calling his involvement with the anti-arena sentiment in Sacramento “a mistake I regret.”
“When our binding agreement to purchase the Sacramento Kings became a competitive situation and we were faced with both the prospect of seeing our transaction fail and losing our $30 million deposit, I engaged Loeb & Loeb to canvas the various opposition groups to gain an understanding of their efforts and the prospects of their success,” Hansen said. “During this time I was approached through Loeb by the opposition about making a contribution to the opposition’s efforts as part of a broader group and agreed to make a donation.”
Hansen added that he doesn’t plan to make anymore contributions to any other anti-arena campaigns in the near future. He also maintains that his donation was made from a “personal capacity” with no involvement by the members of his proposed ownership group in Seattle. In hopes of bringing back the Sonics, Hansen has formed a partnership with Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and the Nordstrom family.
“While I’m sure everyone can appreciate how easy it is to get caught up the heat of battle, with the benefit of hindsight, this is clearly a decision I regret,” Hansen said. “I wish the city of Sacramento and Kings fans the best in their efforts and they have my commitment not to have any involvement in their arena efforts in the future.”