(Reuters) - The National Basketball Association’s Board of Governors on Tuesday unanimously approved the sale of the Sacramento Kings to a California investor group, effectively ending a tug-of-war with competing potential bidders, one of whom had hoped to move the team to Seattle, a league official said.
The deal to sell a majority stake in the team to investors led by tech developer and philanthropist Vivek Ranadive followed months of wrangling between Seattle-based investors who wanted the team to replace its beloved Seattle SuperSonics franchise lost in 2008, and California investors who wanted it to stay put.
The deal replaces an earlier agreement struck in January between the Kings’ current owner, the Maloof family, which has made real estate and other investments in the western United States, and Seattle-based investors led by hedge fund manager Chris Hansen, Microsoft Corp Chief Executive Steve Ballmer and others.
The new deal for a 65 percent stake is expected to close late on Friday and values the franchise at roughly $535 million, according to a source close to the negotiations.
“Congrats to Vivek & the new ownership group!” Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, a former NBA player who mounted a campaign to keep the team in California, wrote on Twitter. “NBA’s unanimous vote sends a strong statement of support for the Kings’ bright future in Sac!”
Johnson has said the investor group behind the deal includes 24-Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov, members of the Jacobs family with ties at Qualcomm Inc, and others from California. Ex-Facebook Inc executive Chris Kelly has also been identified as an investor.
“It is an honor and a privilege to be part of such an amazing community,” Ranadive, the Chairman and CEO of business software maker Tibco Software Inc, tweeted on Tuesday.
Ranadive and his group also plan for a new downtown arena.
Fund-manager Hansen has long vowed to bring a team back to Seattle and rename it the SuperSonics after the team the city lost to Oklahoma City.
As wrangling over the team mounted, Hansen increased his bid for a controlling interest in the Kings to $406 million, which valued the team at an unprecedented $625 million. He already has a deal with the city to build a new arena.
But last month, a committee of NBA owners voted that the team should stay in Sacramento.
Reporting by Eric M. Johnson; editing by Cynthia Johnston, G Crosse