Spurred by a desire to flesh out a financing plan by requesting state funds, Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms has imposed a deadline of Monday for the Maloofs to commit to move the Sacramento Kings to Sessoms’ fair city. The Maloof family, which has little cash and few options, probably isn’t happy about being put in a spot like this. Nevertheless, this may be the Maloofs’ best chance to hold onto the team while getting a new arena in the process, something that isn’t happening in Sacramento since they don’t have the funds to put up their share.
The news has piqued the interest of observers in Seattle, who are ready to pounce on the Kings if the Maloofs try to work out a deal there, or worse for them, sell. The weekend news post had an item about the Maloofs floating a $500 million asking price for the franchise. While an eyepopping number, it’s pretty close to what the franchise could fetch on the open market. If Chris Hansen were to want to finalize a deal ASAP, $500 million would probably do it (Clay Bennett paid $350 million for the Sonics-Thunder in 2006). He and his partners may even be more motivated by the NHL’s ongoing lockout, which has arguably depressed league and franchise values, especially relative to NBA properties. Better to initially pay more for the more stable sport, may be the thinking.
Meanwhile, Hansen continues to buy land in the SoDo area in preparation for an arena deal. There’s a rumor of an announcement in Seattle for next week, though it may not be substantive.
The Kings have a deadline of March 1 to apply for relocation. It’s in the best interest of the Maloofs to keep as many options on the table as possible, so a real commitment to move at this early stage would be surprising to say the least. As we get to March, however, speculation and negotiations with multiple cities will be hot and heavy. Smart move by Mayor Sessoms to try get out of a potential bidding war, but we all know that things don’t normally work that way. The Maloofs remain the wildcard, so there’s no telling what will happen next.