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NBA returning to Seattle?

After breaking Seattle basketball fans’ hearts by taking the Sonics to Oklahoma City in 2008, investor Chris Hansen, a Seattle native, worked hard to bring the beloved team back to Seattle.

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sodo1SEATTLE — A courtroom victory for the new Sodo arena feels a little hollow without a team to put in it.

According to the city of Seattle, the Washington State Court of Appeals ruled that the agreement between Seattle, King County and Chris Hansen did not violate state environmental laws.

The original suit was brought by the International Longshore & Warehouse Union Local 19. They lost their suit, and their appeal was denied Monday.

This leaves the door open for Seattle and Hansen’s group to pursue their dream of a $490 million sports arena to host basketball and hockey games and other events.

“Our office has worked hard to ensure that the review process  for the proposed arena complies with SEPA,” city attorney Pete Holmes said. “I am pleased the court agrees with us.”

The Seattle Times reported the ILWU will now shift the focus of its fight to challenging the Draft Environmental Impact Statement released by the city last month. Port workers are concerned crowds of sports fans would clog the streets that lead to port facilities, slowing down port traffic and putting their jobs in jeopardy.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (FOX 40 News) — Investor Chris Hansen, who was trying to buy the Sacramento Kings and move the NBA team to Seattle, and two of his associates will pay a joint $50,000 penalty for their involvement in anti-arena efforts for the Kings in California.

California’s Fair Political Practices Commission has reached an agreement on fines with Hansen and the top official and treasurer of his political action committee, Citizens for a Vote in Government.

hansen3The next step is for the FPPC board to approve the agreement later this month. The fine arrangement stems from an Aug. 15 suit filed by the FPPC.

The campaign watchdog sued to reveal the backers of a signature-gathering effort for a petition that could derail  plans for a new Kings NBA arena in downtown Sacramento.

Those backers had not made proper election filings with the state as required by the Political Reform Act of 1974.

That litigation revealed Hansen as the major donor behind a petition drive.

The drive supports the ballot initiative, but is not tied to STOP – Sacramento Taxpayers Opposed to Pork.

STOP wants the voting public to have a say in city money partially funding a project like a Kings arena.

In FPPC documents tied to the organization’s latest enforcement agenda, Hansen says he didn’t know $80,000 of his money had been used on signature-gatherers until a complaint was filed with the FPPC on Aug. 10. He said he made a financial arrangement with the Los Angeles law firm of Loeb & Loeb to make the donation before the NBA’s May decision to keep the Kings in Sacramento.

Loeb & Loeb is the law firm for the Maloofs, the former owners of the Kings who at one time planned to sell the team to Hansen.

The Hansen money sent to the firm was supposed to be used for research into what might enable him to move the Kings to Seattle.

In FPPC documents, Hansen said his money — it was to amount to $100,000 total — was only supposed to go political if it was applied to a broad-based effort with many donors that was independent of STOP.

The Loeb & Loeb law firm has confirmed Hansen’s version of what happened.

Hansen released a statement Monday in which he again apologized for “the mistakes I clearly made” and added, “I would again just like to reiterate my commitment to stay out of Sacramento’s Arena efforts “

SEATTLE — Investor Chris Hansen confirmed Friday that he donated money through a law firm to groups opposed to keeping the Kings in Sacramento — a clandestine contribution that California officials said occurred in mid-June, three weeks after Hansen lost his bid to buy the NBA team and move it to Seattle and after he had wished the new owners in Sacramento well.

“I made a mistake I regret,” Hansen said in a statement issued Friday night on his website.

California’s Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC), the state’s appointed political watchdog,  announced earlier Friday that Hansen had donated $100,000 through the Los Angeles law firm of Loeb & Loeb to an opposition petition campaign in Sacramento to try to force a public vote – and potentially scuttle — the Kings’ proposed new downtown arena deal.

hansen2His contribution came on June 21, three weeks after the National Basketball Association owners in May vetoed his deal to buy the team and move it to Seattle.

“When our binding agreement to purchase the Sacramento Kings became a competitive situation and we were faced with both the prospect of seeing our transaction fail and losing our $30 million deposit, I engaged Loeb & Loeb to canvas the various opposition groups to gain an understanding of their efforts and the prospects of their success,” Hansen said in his statement.

“During this time I was approached through Loeb by the opposition about making a contribution to the opposition’s efforts as part of a broader group and agreed to make a donation.

“In this regard I would just like to highlight that I have never directly engaged with or even had any conversations or contact with STOP, Taxpayers For Safer Neighborhoods, or any the various consultants engaged in the Sacramento Arena opposition. It was also not my intent to be the primary financial sponsor of the opposition’s efforts. I merely agreed to make a donation to the opposition in what had become a competitive and heated process.

“I have not agreed to provide any further political contributions and do not intend to make any further contributions.

“I would also just point out that the contribution was made in my personal capacity and not on behalf of our ownership group or my partners. In fact, I have never discussed the contribution with them to date.

“While I’m sure everyone can appreciate how easy it is to get caught up the heat of battle, with the benefit of hindsight, this is clearly a decision I regret. I wish the city of Sacramento and Kings fans the best in their efforts and they have my commitment not to have any involvement in their arena efforts in the future.”

At an afternoon press conference in Sacramento, FPPC enforcement chief Gary Winuk said Hansen should have known state law required him to report his $100,000 contribution. Both Hansen and the political action committee of the opposition group could face fines, Winuk said.

Hansen’s statement made no explanation why he made the contribution three weeks after he had lost the fight for the Kings.

“Despite his apology, experts said he had already wounded his effort to bring the NBA back to Seattle some day, as the league might not appreciate his meddling in another market,” the Sacramento Bee’s news story on the issue said.

The disclosure first came in campaign documents filed with the California Secretary of State’s Office by an Orange County political action committee.

The group gathering petition signatures made the filing one day after the FPPC sued Loeb & Loeb, which had wired $80,000 of Hansen’s $100,000 to the signature-gathering campaign organizers in Sacramento. The lawsuit demanded to know the identity of the donor. A court hearing had been scheduled for Monday, but Hansen’s identity was disclosed Friday.

sonicsSEATTLE — Remember all the talk about moving the NBA back to Seattle and how disappointed everyone was it didn’t happen?

Well, it turns out most people didn’t care about losing out to Sacramento all too much.

According to the Seattle Times, a recent poll conducted by Stuart Elway found 51 percent of King County residents shrugged the NBA’s decision not to move the Kings to Seattle, saying it wasn’t a “compelling drama for King County residents”

Thirty-three percent of those polled said they were disappointed in the decision. But 12 percent of participants said they were happy the NBA wasn’t moving back to Seattle.

The 33 percent was similar to a poll in 2012 showing 31 percent of residents “strongly favored” bringing the NBA back to Seattle.

Stuart Elway of the polling group said while there’s loud support for bringing the team back to Seattle, a majority of county residents would rather see public money and interests go elsewhere.

“But for most people, public money has always been the big issue,” Elway said.

Pollsters contacted 401 King County residents from May 28 to 30. According to the Times, the polls margin of error was plus or minus 5 percentage points.


Vivek Ranadive (Photo: FOX40/Sacramento)

The NBA Board of Governors voted unanimously Tuesday to approve the sale of the Sacramento Kings from the Maloof family to a group headed by Silicon Valley technology entrepreneur Vivek Ranadive, it was reported.

The sale deal, which places the full team value at $535 million, a record price for an NBA team, is expected to close escrow in the next few days, the Sacramento Bee reported.

FOX 40 said Ranadive took to Twitter to confirm the news, tweeting, “Thanks to entire NBA for approving sale of Kings to our organization. It is an honor & a privilege to be part of such an amazing community.”

He also changed his Twitter bio to reflect his new status as the owner of the team.

The league voted 22-8 to block the relocation of the Kings to Seattle, effectively killing a bid to buy the team from an investor group there. With that bid dead, the Maloofs agreed to sell the team to Ranadive.


VIDEO: Phil Jackson wanted Sonics job

SEATTLE — Phil Jackson, the former coach of the Lakers and Bulls, would have had a role in the Sonics had they come to town.

Jackson, appearing on the Dan Patrick Show, said he appreciated potential investor Chris Hansen’s drive and ideas to bring an NBA team to Seattle. He said he would have participated in Seattle’s NBA team in some form, and thought the franchise was something he could “buy into.”

“I thought he had the right vision for a team and he made basically the offer,” Jackson told host Dan Patrick.

Jackson won 11 titles as a head coach, the most in NBA history.

HansenSEATTLE — Chris Hansen’s message today on will ease those in the city who may have felt hope for an NBA team was lost after Wednesday’s relocation vote.

Hansen mentioned he knew when efforts began in 2011 that bringing an NBA franchise back to Seattle would take some patience.

Regardless, he plans to continue the fight to bring a team to Seattle.

“We will continue to press forward with our Arena plans with the same commitment and effort we have over the last two years, and look forward to working with the City and County to see the project through the hurdles that remain,” he said.

Hansen added that he plans to continue working with the NBA regarding opportunities to return a franchise to the city and that the group is as dedicated as ever to return Sonics basketball to Seattle.

In his message, he thanks everyone who has helped get them to this point. He also recognized the fans in Sacramento who fought to keep the Kings.

“This was never about Seattle fans versus Sacramento fans, and it goes unsaid that there is a mutual respect given the circumstances we have both been through,” he said.

He concludes by asking Seattle to keep the Green and Gold alive because the fans have proven without a doubt, they deserve to have an NBA team back in Seattle.

SEATTLE — We put our spotlight one last time in 2013 on NBA Commissioner David Stern.

sternI could stand here and call him a pompous, egotistical and overpaid hypocrite, whose unnecessary cheap shot at Seattle said it all. But what burns me most? That outside Seattle, his legacy might be considered admirable – even heroic.

I worry that when Stern retires in February, the national media will praise him for his accomplishments more than his failures. After all, the NBA’s overall success over a 30-year period in terms of financial growth, globalization and league prosperity is tough to match. It’s fair to say that those triumphs will overshadow the black marks of a few lockouts, a referee betting scandal, and the relocation of the Sonics to Oklahoma City.

I worry that in the big picture of Stern’s career, the world turns its head on the sacrificial lamb.

That it forgets how he played our city like a fiddle – twice – for the greater good of his league.

If Stern had any remorse at all, this past week was his ultimate chance at redemption. A promise of expansion could’ve helped make things right. Forget his policies of protocol and process – enough owners would’ve followed Stern’s lead had he actively supported a special circumstance for expansion in Seattle – especially on the heels of another exceptional presentation by Chris Hansen.

Instead, Seattle got nothing.

And to be clear, when Kevin Johnson and Sacramento bent over backwards, Stern reciprocated.

But when Hansen and Steve Ballmer did, Stern didn’t lift a finger.

Worst of all, I worry that Stern’s reported lobbying efforts to sway the NBA Board of Governors’ vote might portray him as a hero or guardian angel in Sacramento. And I worry that he’ll be lauded in Charlotte for awarding them an expansion team in 2004 after the Hornets left town. And that he’ll be praised in New Orleans for using league money to keep a team there before it could find a local owner.

In the end, I worry that Stern will be remembered for making up for his past mistakes when the biggest – most drastic and hurtful one of all – was left unresolved.

David Stern was a manipulator who made his owners and himself a whole lot of money. His missteps may or may not register as a blip on the national portrayal of his ultimate legacy.

But to me, Stern will never be forgiven in Seattle.

He’ll always be the man who threw out the baby – and kept the bathwater.

SACRAMENTO (KTXL) — Mayor Kevin Johnson says he learned about a deal finalizing the sale of the Kings to the Vivek Ranadive group while at a Warriors playoff game Thursday night.

He told a group of Kings fans and reporters at City Hall Friday he was at the game “to remember what the playoffs are like” with Ranadive and others, when his phone started blowing up.

“And it says ‘the deal has been signed’ … I go up to (NBA Commissioner David) Stern and say ‘the story broke, the deal is signed’ and he says ‘You think I didn’t know that?’,” the mayor recounted for the crowd.

During Friday’s event the mayor repeatedly thanked Sacramento Kings fans for their support during the long process that culminated in last night’s sale of the majority ownership in the team from the Maloof brothers to Ranadive and other investors.

“We take a backseat to nobody when it comes to supporting our basketball team,” said Johnson.

He was quick to remind the crowd about the good things the Maloof brothers have done for the Sacramento area, including giving almost $20 million to organizations and groups in the area. Before they sold to Seattle, they explored a backup deal with Sacramento and that opened the door to allow Ranadive’s group to make their best offer.

“They didn’t have to accept the backup offer, and they did,” said Johnson.

Johnson said he had been in contact with Ranadive all morning, however he was not at Friday’s event. Johnson also was quick to not release any details about the deal with the Maloofs, and directed reporters to the NBA for further information. The new ownership group will take over by the end of the month at the latest following a closing period of the purchase and sale agreement.

Developer Mark Friedman did talk to the crowd, he said the new arena will open downtown on October 2016, and that the groundbreaking will be Fall 2014.

A rally for the fans is planned Wednesday at 4 p.m. at Chavez Park in Sacramento. The Mayor said the band Cake is expected to perform.