Chris Hansen behind anti-Sacramento arena referendum

by: KIRO 7 STAFF Updated:


Investor Chris Hansen is the man behind a big donation to the anti-Kings arena referendum signature drive in Sacramento.

Hansen, who has invested millions into building a Sodo arena that could bring the NBA back to Seattle, tried to keep his involvement secret by passing the money through the Maloof's law firm.

A judge was expected to hear a disclosure lawsuit on Monday. A press briefing is planned for 4 p.m. in California.

On Thursday, California's political watchdog agency filed a lawsuit to force a Los Angeles law firm to identify who paid signature gatherers trying to force a public vote on Sacramento's arena subsidy, the Sacramento Bee reported.

The suit against Loeb & Loeb charged the firm did not report the source of the money. In June the firm paid a consulting agency $80,000 to fund signature gathers for a ballot measure that would require voter approval of subsidies for sports facilities in Sacramento, the Bee reported.

In April, the NBA’s combined relocation and finance advisory committee, composed of 12 owners, voted down the Maloof family's proposed sale of the Kings to Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer, who planned to move the team to Seattle.

The following month, league owners voted to follow the recommendation of their relocation committee and reject the bid to move the Kings.

The 22-8 vote by the Board of Governors rejected a deal that would have sold a 65 percent controlling interest at a total franchise valuation of $625 million to a Seattle group led by Hansen, who boosted the offer twice after the NBA showed an unwillingness to relocate.

The vote ended an emotional saga that has dragged on for nearly three years. Hansen wanted to move the franchise and rename it the Supersonics, who left Seattle for Oklahoma City in 2008 and were renamed the Thunder.

Hansen said in a statement at the time that he hoped to pursue a minority ownership role with the Maloofs, but Ranadive said his partners "haven't really considered" the Maloofs maintaining a stake in the franchise.

Stern praised Hansen's proposal in May and said the NBA might consider expansion once a new TV deal is in place, but said "we don't have anything concrete."

"Our day will come,” Hansen said then, “and when it does, it will just be that much sweeter for the struggle.”

Hansen released a statement Friday afternoon: 

"I made a mistake I regret.

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.

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."

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