The National Basketball Association heard a hedge fund manager's detailed plan for bringing a team back to his hometown of Seattle yesterday as the league weighed Christopher Hansen's bid against that of a group that would keep the Sacramento Kings in California's capital.
The NBA's finance and relocation committees heard presentations from both sides. Hansen, who runs San Francisco-based Valiant Capital Management, offered a detailed plan for the purchase of a majority stake in the team and the construction of a new home in Seattle that would open in 2017. Hansen's group is putting up $290 million of the $490 million required for the new arena, and has already spent $50 million on the land for it.
Hansen was followed at the New York meeting by the man who would be his co-owner, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who is known for his motivational speeches to the software giant's employees. Finally, current Kings owner George Maloof spoke in favor of the bid, which he accepted in January.
The committees also heard from a competing group, including private-equity billionaire Ron Burkle, who would keep the Kings in Sacramento. And a month after the NBA said that group needed to improve its offer, it appears to have done so, adding software pioneer Vivek Ranadivé as would-be lead owner.
The addition of Ranadivé, a co-owner of the league's Golden State Warriors, appears to have settled the NBA's concern, with Commissioner David Stern saying money "is not one of the issues."
"We heard a day full of extraordinary presentations of a complex real estate, arena, construction time lines, potential obstacles and team fund in two really great cities," Stern said. "It was a long day without any breaks, and both sides made, in my view, very, very strong presentations."
"We've never had a situation like this," Stern added.
For his part, Hansen said he was "optimistic."
"The ownership group is very enthusiastic, and we appreciate the NBA has got a tough decision to make, and we're hopeful for an outcome in our favor."
The committees are expected to make a recommendation to the NBA Board of Governors in two weeks. It had been hoped that a final decision would be taken at the April 18-19 meeting, but that is now unlikely, and it is unclear when a vote will be taken.