- Brian Windhorst, ESPN.com
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A committee of NBA owners who have been studying the future of the Sacramento Kings met Monday but did not change their position to recommend the team be kept in Sacramento and not moved to Seattle, a source told ESPN.com.
A final full vote on the matter is expected at owners' meetings Wednesday in Dallas. It remains unclear, however, who will own the Kings after Wednesday's meetings.
A group led by Silicon Valley billionaire Vivek Ranadive, who has worked closely with NBA commissioner David Stern to keep the Kings in Sacramento and build a new arena for the team, is hoping to gain control of the team. The Maloof family, the Kings current owners, have told the league they don't plan to sell to Ranadive if the move is blocked.
To sort through all this, the owners' relocation and finance committees held a teleconference in the wake of several developments in the last week from the group that is trying to buy the Kings and relocate them to Seattle. Two weeks ago the relocation committee voted unanimously to block the move. It has been expected the rest of the owners would follow that recommendation.
Last week in a bid to change the owners minds, Seattle group lead investor Chris Hansen increased his offer for 65 percent of the Kings to a record $409 million from $358 million. He also offered a relocation fee payout of $4 million per team for a total of about $116 million to attempt to sweet the pot and sway owners who may be sitting on the fence.
Also last week the Maloofs told fellow owners if they blocked the move to Seattle they had a backup plan where they would instead sell a 20 percent share to Hansen's group and keep controlling interest in the team.
Such a sale would have to be approved by 75 percent of the owners and it's uncertain if the Maloofs would have enough support considering Hansen's goal clearly is to move the team to Seattle. However, the league cannot force the Maloofs to sell to Ranadive.
The NBA league office has negotiated its own backup deal with Ranadive that includes a purchase price of $341 million for the Kings, which would still set a record by valuing the entire team at $525 million.
Ranadive appears to have gotten the support of league owners because it has worked with local government officials to secure more than $250 million in funding for a new downtown arena. While his deal is less money and in a smaller market, the league has repeatedly shown an interest in making the Kings work in Sacramento being its first priority.
Though there have been concerns among owners over the hastily-formed Ranadive group and its arena deal, the group has met some recent benchmarks that have satisfied the league, sources said.
Their effort to sweeten the pot for other owners was to promise to reduce and eventually eliminate the revenue-sharing proceeds the Kings would be owned over the next few years, a giveback that will likely total in the tens of millions.
Through the process, the Hansen group and the Maloofs have generally worked around the league office and communicated directly with the owners who will vote on Wednesday.