By selling their controlling interest in the Sacramento Kings for $340 million, the Maloofs on Monday triggered a lengthy review process by the NBA that puts the onus on Sacramento officials to come up with a counteroffer to keep the team in town.
Monday morning, the Maloof family announced that it had signed a binding agreement to sell the team to a Seattle investment group led by hedge fund manager Chris Hansen. In a brief statement, the Kings owners expressed appreciation for Sacramento fans, but offered no details on the proposed move to Seattle.
"We have always appreciated and treasured our ownership of the Kings and have had a great admiration for the fans and our team members," Gavin Maloof said in a prepared statement. "We would also like to thank Chris Hansen for his professionalism during our negotiation. Chris will be a great steward for the franchise."
Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson did not comment on the news. He has been working to assemble a rival ownership group that could buy the team and keep it here.
Late Sunday night, the mayor tweeted that the "deal is NOT done. Sac can still present an offer."
A source with knowledge of the deal said the Maloofs and partner Bob Hernreich sold their joint 65 percent stake in the team, and that the deal was based on total value of $525 million — a record in the NBA. That implies the Seattle group is paying around $340 million.
The remaining 35 percent of the team, owned by four entities, has not changed hands.
The league confirmed it has received sale documents, and will now launch a process of vetting the sale.
"The NBA received an executed Purchase and Sale Agreement for the transfer of a controlling interest in the Sacramento Kings from the Maloof family to an investor group led by Christopher Hansen," the NBA said in a statement. "The proposed transaction is subject to the approval of the NBA Board of Governors and has been referred to the Board's committee process for review."
The league's advisory and finance committee will review the deal, and will vet the Seattle group, then will issue a recommendation to the league owner's group, the Board of Governors, for their vote. League officials declined comment on the timing, but a source said the process could take several months.
The deal would move the team to Seattle next season.
Hansen released his own statement about a half hour after the Maloofs, saying, "We are happy to announce that we have entered into a binding agreement with the Maloofs to purchase a controlling interest in the Sacramento Kings NBA franchise."
He too wouldn't release financial details but noted the purchase "is obviously subject to approval by the NBA Board of Governors."
The deal includes a stipulation, sources told the Bee, that the Hansen group will pay the Maloofs $30 million if Hansen backs out of the deal, or if the NBA rejects the deal.
Johnson still has his card to play. The mayor expects to unveil his own counteroffer, complete with a financing package for a badly needed new arena.
With the public encouragement of NBA Commissioner David Stern, he expects to present his proposal to the NBA Board of Governors in New York in April, where a dramatic showdown with the Maloofs and Hansen's group looms.