Conflicting reports escalate Kings sale story

Dueling reports today on the Kings. First, CSN’s Matt Steinmetz reported that the deal to sell the Kings to the Hansen-Ballmer group is all but done, with the price rising to $525 million. That may have been enough to convince the Maloofs to sell and back off any demand for partial control of the team. That was followed up shortly thereafter by a report by CBS Sports NBA reporter Ken Berger, who tweeted that 24 Hour Fitness owner Mark Mastrov has expressed interest in buying the Kings and has met with the Maloofs to boot.

You may remember that a group led by Mastrov ended up as a runner-up to the Lacob-Guber group in bidding for the Warriors (2nd or 3rd depending on where Larry Ellison falls in). Mastrov is only worth $350 million, but his group was vetted by the NBA to participate in the W’s bidding, so there’s no reason to think he wouldn’t be legit if his group were reconstructed to buy the Kings. Sleep Train CEO Dale Carlsen also threw his hat in the ring. It’s unclear at the moment if all of these various rich guys (plus more to come) would put together competing bids or pool their resources.

The Maloofs reportedly own only 53% of the team with controlling interest, with the rest owned by various local limited partners. Joe Benvenuti, who had the largest minority share, died last May. Benvenuti was the developer who built both ARCO Arenas I & II in partnership with Gregg Lukenbill.

To complicate things, David Stern made remarks that seemed to have him leaning towards Sacramento if a “local” group trying to keep the team in town came forward. Of course, Stern and the NBA’s Board of Governors is the final arbiter of the team’s fate, as they would not only approve any relocation effort, but also any incoming ownership group. It’s unlikely that any Sacramento group would be approved unless an arena deal were done first. That would leave Mayor Kevin Johnson with the task of resurrecting the Railyards arena plan, which was scrapped last April when the Maloofs couldn’t come up with their share.

The price to keep the Kings in Sacramento may be up to $107 million lower than the Seattle bid, because there’s the $30 million relocation fee and the $77 million arena purchase-leaseback loan was constructed as a poison pill. Now, if I’m a local bidder and David Stern, I might push KJ hard to forgive the loan for any incoming group. That would allow the debt load to lighten significantly and free up resources to pay for the new arena. There would remain environmental issues with the Railyards arena plan and it would still require a vote, but those can be dealt with.

It’s only going to get more dramatic and difficult for fans in Sacramento and Seattle. Expect nothing to be finalized until we get really close to March 1.

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Update 7:00 PMDale Carlsen was interviewed by Grant Napear today. Carlsen clarified that he wants to help keep the Kings in Sacramento, but that won’t be done by him “writing a check”. Instead, he’d work to rally the business community to coalesce around whatever the solution is.

Update 1/12 12:00 AM – Mayor Johnson claims that he can put together $400 million or more so that a local group could buy the Kings.

Update 1/12 2:00 AM – Ric Bucher is bringing up the idea that the Maloofs still want to maintain some level of control over the team and may threaten to take the team to Anaheim, or even file an antitrust lawsuit against the NBA if they don’t get their way.

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