In recent weeks, the Sacramento Kings’ future has been left in the hands of businessmen who have slowly squandered what used to be a family fortune.
The Kings are losing. Fans are growing weary, and Sacramento is once again involved in an all to familiar love affair with its team.
General manager Geoff Petrie is on the last year of his contract, and has no room to trade or move players on his team before the upcoming trade deadline. Hope for some still remains as new potential buyers enter the picture. Yet many still ask the question, what will happen to the Sacramento Kings?
Some could say that problems began when the Kings lost a fatal 2002 playoff series, while others say the Maloofs have squandered opportunities from the moment they arrived in Sacramento.
Most of the Maloof family fortune comes from the families patriarch George J. Maloof Sr. He became successful with his Coors Beer distribution Company in New Mexico in 1937. By 2000, the family’s net worth was said to be over $1 billion.
The Maloofs have squandered most of their family fortune over the last decade, as almost all of the family’s major investments have failed or simply fallen apart in the last two years. George J. Maloof Jr. invested over $265 million of the families fortune in the Palms Casino in 2001. After failing to save themselves from their financial free fall by selling the rights of the families beer distribution, the Maloofs eventually lost the Palms and Palms Towers to TPG Capital and Leonard Green & Associates. The Maloofs currently own only two percent of The Palms while TPG Capital and Leonard Green & Associates own the remaining 98 percent(49 percent each).
Over the past nine years, the Maloof family has taken what used to be a Sacramento Kings team rated number four on ESPN’s Ultimate Team Rankings, and watched as the team has plummeted to number 121 of 122 in 2012.
The Maloof brothers are simply bad businessmen. The Kings enjoyed eight years of winning basketball after struggling to even make a blip on the national radar. The Kings have had only one other playoff run in the Sacramento era in 1996, before the Maloofs had any involvement with the organization.
Even though the Maloofs have been major part of eight successful winning seasons, they haven’t been able to capitalize on the organization’s success. Instead they are attempting to sell and relocate the team in an attempt to save their family from its own financial crisis.
In 1998, the Maloof family became minority owners of the Sacramento Kings after selling the Houston Rockets in 1982, and became majority owners of the Kings in 1999. From the arrival of Chris Webber and Jason Williams in 1998 to 2006, fans were treated to playoff basketball.
The Sacramento Kings set an NBA record for most consecutive sellout games, and then broke their own record. But when the Kings went from a playoff contender to a bottom of the cellar team, Joe and Gavin Maloof have done little to nothing to help the team. The Maloofs have squandered their family fortune with poor business decisions, and have done everything they can do to simply get out of Sacramento.
George Maloof Jr. has never wavered, nor denied his efforts on trying to move the team since his early attempts to relocate to Las Vegas. Rumors of the Maloof brothers finally reaching an agreement to move the Kings started in 2006 in the form of threats. The Maloof brothers first attempted to raise taxes in Sacramento through a quarter-cent sales tax increase that would have provided for a new arena by means of the taxpayers of Sacramento.
The tax would have cost $1.2 billion over the course of 15 years, and allowed for the Maloofs to own the majority rights of the new arena. After the voters of Sacramento overwhelmingly voted against the tax increase, the Maloofs responded with threats of moving the team to Vegas.
The city of Sacramento tried once more to build a new arena in 2009, before the rumors of the teams departure turned into legitimate talks between the Maloofs and the city of Anaheim.
Sacramento has since waged a seemingly endless battle to keep their beloved Kings franchise. The city and the Maloofs seemed to strike a deal on
February 27, 2012, but after approval from the Sacramento City Council on Aril 13, 2012, the Maloofs backed out of the proposed arena deal. Then, the city watched as signs of the teams uncertain future quickly began to lead back to the Maloofs trying to move and sell the Kings. As the 2012-2013 season began, many questions hung over the team and its city.
With the Maloofs refusal to discuss anything related to the teams future, things started to become clear. Then January 9, 2013, NBA.com reported that the Sacramento Kings were in discussions involving the team being sold the hedge fund manager Chris Hansen,
Little hope was found last week when Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson was granted permission to seek an audience with the NBA’s board of governors, consisting of the league’s 30 team owners. Johnson asked the NBA to allow him to present a competing bid that would prevent the Maloof family from selling the team to the Seattle group.
Johnson has garnered support from local developer David Taylor to Sleep Train Executive Dale Carlsen, both of whom are interested in being a part of a local business group to submit an offer to purchase the Kings and keep them in Sacramento.
24 Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov and supermarket billionaire Ron Burkle have both shown interest in placing major bids for the Kings. Burkle had tried to buy the team in 2011, but was rejected by the Maloofs. He has had meetings with NBA Commissioner David Stern and major Johnson in the last week with regards to his attempts to buy the Kings.
Burkle has remained interested throughout the process, as he has recently inquired about developer Bob Cook’s current seven percent share in the Kings. Cook has said he has not been approached about the sale by the Maloofs or Hansen, and has stated that he and the remaining minority owners are allowed to make a bid to buy the team in the event of an attempt to sell the team.
Arena operator AEG came forward on January 15, 2013, stating that they still stand behind their pledge of $59 million towards a new arena project in Sacramento. AEG Chief Executive Tim Leiweke said he has recently received encouragement from Stern with regards to the proposed arena plan from 2011-2012. Leiwke also added that Stern doesn’t like to move franchises.
While David Stern has played a major role in keeping the Kings in Sacramento, some have speculated that he has done all that he can to keep the team from relocating. However, some believe while Stern has stated he would like to return the NBA to Seattle before he retires, his efforts to keep the Kings in Sacramento have never wavered.
Stern has continued to show faith in the Kings fan base as well as the continued support for the cities team. He has been quoted saying,”Sacramento has always been particularly supportive (of the NBA).”
The Kings have always had the support from its city, and a fan base that has never wavered. They had better attendance than the SuperSonics in eight of the nine years before the Sonics relocated to Oklahoma City. Only in recent years, in the wake of the constant relocation drama, has Kings attendance suffered. Fans have had their backs against the proverbial wall, as they are constantly faced with the question of whether or not they can support a team which in turn finances the Maloofs and their attempts to sell the team.
Sacramento has only one professional major league sports franchise in comparison to Seattle, which has Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer, the NFL, and Pac-12 collegiate sports. Simply put, ticket sales in Seattle will be effected by the ticket sales of the surrounding Major League Franchise, while the Kings are clearly the biggest draw in Sacramento.
The NBA has played roles in the sale of a franchise before, and at times in very major ways. In December of 2010, the NBA purchased the Hornets from George Shinn and Gary Chouest for an estimated $300 million. On April 13, 2012 the NBA announced the sale of the Hornets to the owner of the New Orleans Saints, Tom Benson for $338 million.
In the wake of the constant uncertainty surrounding the Kings, the team has found ways to play competitive basketball. While Miami made it clear that the Kings are nowhere near the calibre of an NBA championship team, it has become apparent that the team has several players who have started to improve.
DeMarcus Cousins has finally started to mature in the center position, as the center averaged 21.7 points and 12.9 rebounds in the month of January, while also averaging 4.5 assists in his last 10 games. Tyreke Evans has returned from his most recent knee injury and shown major signs of improvement as he has started to fit into the role of dangerous shooting guard. Jimmer Fredette and Isaiah Thomas have each improved from their rookie seasons, and have been receiving increased minutes. Rookie Thomas Robinson has been slowly seeing increased playing time, and with every time he touches the floor, fans see his improvement and massive potential. Jason Thompson has had his most productive and efficient season since being drafted. Marcus Thornton had several hurdles this season, but has delt with them well as he continues to play his way into games.
Geoff Petrie has come under fire in recent years, and as this year marks his last year under contract, his status becomes unknown. Sacramento fans had no clue what a championship calibre team was until Petrie brought the smooth passing of Jason Williams and the All-Star talent of Chris Webber to Sacramento.
Petrie master-minded the construction of the championship calibre team, the likes of which this Sacramento franchise hadn’t known since moving from Kansas City in 1985. Petrie is in his 19th year as General Manager of the Kings Operations, and in recent months has fallen under the knife of many criticisms. He has never been a very wordy person, yet in the wake of the teams most recent struggles, Pertrie has been said to be over the hill as his recent NBA Draft picks have become more criticized.
In 18 years as the Kings General Manager, Petrie has brought playoff basketball to the Kings franchise nine of the 18 years while at the helm.
Besides the Kings playoff runs from 1999 to 2006, Petrie assembled the 1995-1996 team led by Mitch Richmond which lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Seattle. Petrie has recieved two General Manager of the year awards from the NBA. Petrie started this season at .500 for his overall record of his Kings teams making it to the playoffs.
How much more can be asked of the often quiet Petrie? Their are two things Kings fans cannot forget when weighing Petrie’s contributions to tge Kings: his playoff record with Sacramento, and the simple fact that who could and would replace him.
When the Maloofs and the management let go of Rick Adelman, they never realized how difficult it would be to replace such a clearly talented head coach. Only one thing is different in the situation pertaining to the future of Geoff Petrie; the Maloofs imminent departure raise major questions as to Petrie’s future as well as the future of a franchise
The Maloof’s have become bad for the NBA, and bad for the game of basketball.
As Kings fans have been forced to suffer through the constant uncertainty of their teams future in Sacramento, and players futures have been thrown to the wind for the sake of the Maloofs avoiding financial struggles, the integrity of the game has been called into question.
With the NFL’s struggle to maintain its image after the the New Orleans Saints Bounty scandal, as well as the MLB’s most recent 2013 Hall of Fame steroids lockout, the integrity of professional sports in America as we know it has become a major focal point.
In a time where the United States is in an economic crisis, people look for ways to let go of day to day problems and worries, relax and enjoy the simple things about sports.
The Maloofs have taken basketball away from many in Sacramento, most of whom simply cannot bear to watch or listen anymore. The NBA nation has taken notice as even potential Seattle buyers don’t want the Maloofs involved in controlling operations for the team.
Even with the potential of the Kings and the NBA leaving Sacramento hanging in the balance, one thing is certain: the NBA must part ways with the Maloof family.
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