Seattle group makes initial payment on Kings

SEATTLE — A Seattle group led by Chris Hansen and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer made a nonrefundable payment of $30 million by Feb. 1 as part of their agreement to buy the Sacramento Kings, it was confirmed on Wednesday.

The Sacramento Bee first reported the confirmation in a quote from Joe Maloof, one of the members of the current controlling owners, the Maloof family. A separate source later confirmed the news to The Seattle Times.

The payment had been reported as part of the agreement made between the Seattle group and the Maloofs in January, but whether it had actually been paid had not been confirmed previously.

News of the payment came as efforts in Sacramento aimed at keeping the Kings in town reached an urgent state. Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson is expected to announce in the next two days the names of potential alternate buyers of the Kings, whose goal would also be to help develop an arena to keep the team in town.

Johnson hopes his ownership/arena plan would be enough to convince the NBA to turn down the Seattle bid and keep the Kings in Sacramento as the sale of the team from the Maloofs to the Hansen-Ballmer group still needs league approval. The NBA's Board of Governors is expected to vote on the sale at its annual meeting in New York on April 18-19.

Johnson's efforts to keep the Kings have been reported to center on a bid from a group led by Ron Burkle, a co-owner of the NHL's Pittsburgh Penguins, and 24 Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov. Johnson has set a deadline of Friday to announce the group and arena plan, and there have been some reports that Johnson could make that announcement Thursday night at Sacramento's annual State of the City event.

Not expected to be part of that group is current minority owner John Kehriotis, who has been reported to be interested in attempting to also make an offer for the team, as well as develop an arena plan.

The Bee reported, quoting anonymous sources, that Kehriotis had recently contacted the Maloofs to express his interest.

However, the Bee source said any new offer "would have to be a backup offer to the definitive agreement between the Hansen-Ballmer group and the Maloofs."

The Bee further reported that the "Maloofs have an exclusive agreement with the Seattle group that prohibits them from entering into negotiations with anyone else offering a competing or counter offer." Another offer could only be made if the sale to the Hansen-Ballmer group falls through.

Also at question is whether Kehriotis, who currently owns 12.25 percent of the team, would have a right of first refusal to buy the team.

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