Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson still confident prospective Kings owners will deliver Maloofs strong offer

by James Ham & Jonathan Santiago

Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson during introductions at Here We Buy Night 1 against the Utah Jazz. (Photo: Steven Chea)

Rumors continue to persist that the bid to keep the Kings in Sacramento is significantly lower than the Seattle offer.  However, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson remains confident that the ownership group vying to purchase the team will deliver a “better than competitive” offer to the Maloof family.

“Money is not going to be an issue,” Johnson said from his courtside seat during halftime of last night’s Kings/Hornets game at Sleep Train Arena.  “And the offer is essentially everything it needed to be.”

According to the Sacramento Bee, the Kings owners are giving the local contingent until 5 pm on Friday to make a binding, back-up offer to their agreement with the Seattle group.  The family is reportedly making the ultimatum in the event the sale or relocation bid to the Pacific Northwest is rejected by the NBA.

The main figure of contention appears to be the $30-million, non-refundable deposit the Seattle investors gave to the Maloofs.  According to the Sports Business Daily’s Daniel Kaplan, the NBA has requested the Sacramento group to cover the payment if they get the team.

The mayor dodged questions last night about whether the investor group led by software magnate Vivek Ranadivé would meet the owners’ demands.  He stated however that the prospective ownership team is in regular contact with both the league and the Maloofs.

“They know the number,” Johnson said of Ranadivé group. “Trust me – they know the number. We articulated to all the owners, attorneys have reached out to the Maloof family. They know what the number is. They know that it’s better than competitive.”

Early last month, NBA commissioner David Stern revealed that the initial bid from the Sacramento group came in low, but suggested that it had time to be renegotiated.  Following last week’s special meeting before the NBA’s joint relocation/finance committee in New York, Stern told media the bid “is not one of the issues.”

“That right there says volumes for where our offer was,” Johnson said of the commissioner’s comment.

The relationship between the Maloofs and Johnson has been on shakey ground since the family attempted to move the Kings to Anaheim two years ago. It further eroded last spring when the Kings owners backed out of a deal to build a new entertainment and sports complex at the downtown rail yards.

After working closely on a deal that included more than $250 million in public subsidies less than a year ago, the Maloofs chose to sell the team to the Seattle group led by hedgefund manager Chris Hansen and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

Despite the Maloofs’ actions over the last three years, Johnson continues to contend that there is no bad blood between the two sides.

“Publicly we may differ on occasion,” the mayor said. “Or more.  But behind the scenes, we have great conversations. They know I’m fighting like crazy to keep the team here. They believe in our ownership group. When you look at dollars and cents, it’s going to be very comparable, which was important to us.”

The NBA may or may not have a decision by it’s annual Board of Governors meetings next week.  League owners are expected to vote on the fate of the Kings at the meetings, which take place April 18th and 19th in New York City.

Updated at 10:52 am PT

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