SACRAMENTO, Calif. >> Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson announced to screaming throngs of Kings fans today that the deal to sell the NBA franchise to a group led by software tycoon Vivek Ranadive has been signed.
The announcement at a City Hall rally brings to an end nearly five months of maneuvering by Johnson to secure a new ownership group, convince the council to commit to building a new downtown arena, and to show the NBA that the capitol city of the most populous state in the nation has the fan base to make the venture successful.
"This was one heck of a comeback," Johnson, a former NBA All-Star, said on a stage shared with two dozen investors, fans and politicians who had worked to keep the franchise in the city.
Earlier this week, NBA owners rejected a bid to move the franchise to Seattle. Investor Chris Hansen, whose agreement to buy the team from the Maloof family and move them to the Pacific Northwest shocked the city in January, fought to acquire the team to the bitter end. He even negotiated to buy a minority share when it became clear the league opposed relocation.
Johnson said that the deal reached between the Maloofs and the Ranadive group did not include an investment from Hansen.
NBA Commissioner David Stern praised Hansen’s proposal and said the NBA might consider expansion once a new TV deal is in place.
The mayor was conciliatory toward Seattle, but said he focused throughout the negotiations on promoting Sacramento as thriving city with 19 sellout seasons, one of the longest streaks in the NBA.
"Seattle is a great city and we want them to get a team. For us, it was never a competition. It was about our community telling our story," Johnson said, adding: "It’s about not letting someone take something that’s not theirs."
The NBA is expected to officially approve the sale next week.
A person familiar with the deal previously told The Associated Press that the Maloofs had reached an agreement to sell a 65 percent controlling interest at a total franchise valuation of $535 million. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to talk publicly.
The plan for the Kings’ future includes a $447 million downtown arena that will be built on at the western gateway to the city near the Sacramento River.
The Sacramento ownership group also includes 24 Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov, former Facebook senior executive Chris Kelly and the Jacobs family that owns communications giant Qualcomm.