Sacramento Mayor Tells Hedge Fund Manager, 'Don't Celebrate Too Early'

Jan 25 2013 | 12:31pm ET

With the stars seemingly aligned for hedge fund manager Christopher Hansen to buy the Sacramento Kings and move them to Seattle, Sacramento's mayor has a warning.

"Don't celebrate too early."

Mayor Kevin Johnson, a former professional basketball player, announced a four-step plan to keep the Kings in California's capital this week. During a rally in front of City Hall, Johnson named 19 local investors who have each pledged at least $1 million to the effort. He added that he's spoken to several other potential investors with the ability to produce "a fair and competitive offer" counter to Hansen's bid, which values the Kings at $525 million.

"We've been here before," Johnson said. "Our backs have been against the wall. They told us it wasn't going to happen. But each and every step along the way, as long as there is time on the clock, our community always finds a way to stand up for itself."

Most recently, it seemed last March that Johnson had secured the Kings' future in Sacramento with a deal for a new arena. But the plan fizzled and led the Kings' current majority owners to put the team up for sale.

On Monday, Hansen, who heads Valiant Capital Partners, and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer were announced as the likely new owners of the team, with plans to move it to Seattle by next season. The two would buy a 65% stake in the Kings, a sale that still needs approval from the National Basketball Association. Johnson has said NBA Commissioner David Stern has promised him the chance to present his counteroffer.

"I just say to the fans in Seattle: Be cautiously optimistic. Be smart," Johnson said to the city to the north, which lost its NBA team, the SuperSonics, to Oklahoma City in 2008. "But this isn't about our city against their city, or one mayor against another mayor. We have something that's ours and we want to keep it, and we're going to do everything we can to make Sacramento the final resting place of the Sacramento Kings."

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