• Today in history: Seattle Supersonics sold to group led by Howard Schultz

    By: KIRO 7 News Staff , Dan Johnson, HistoryLink.org


    SEATTLE - Less than a week after watching the Seahawks go down to the Cowboys, and with spring training still a month away, no Seattle professional sports franchises are in action until the Sounders take the field for their preseason on Jan. 22. 

    Come 2021, fans will have an NHL team in Seattle to root for in the winter months and many still hold out hope for the Sonics’ return to the Emerald City. 

    But for now, fans  will be left to root for other professional sports teams this weekend. 

    KIRO 7 looked into the history of major January sports moments in the region and found that 18 years ago Friday the Seattle SuperSonics were sold to an investment group led by Howard Schultz. 

    Schultz would go on to sell the team to Clay Bennett – who in 2008 would move the franchise to the Pacific Northwest. 

    The following is a recap of the event in a HistoryLink.org essay written by Dan Johnson

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    On January 11, 2001, Barry Ackerley, owner of the Seattle SuperSonics NBA franchise, reaches an agreement to sell the team to an investment group led by Starbucks Corporation founder Howard Schultz. The sale price is reported to be $200 million and includes the WNBA's Seattle Storm as well as Full House Entertainment, the business arm of the Sonics and Storm.

    Among the other new investors in the team were Sonics general manager Wally Walker, who played on the team from 1978-82, and VoiceStream wireless CEO John Stanton. But Schultz emerged as the face of the new ownership, proclaiming at a news conference announcing the sale that "I have a passion for the Sonics. I look forward to doing everything humanly possible ... to bring a world championship back to Seattle."

    Ackerley, who owned the team since 1983, was choked up at times during the news conference. "We are happy we found such experienced and enthusiastic new owners for the team," he said. "When we reached the decision to sell the team, one of our biggest concerns was that the Sonics stay in Seattle. We are confident that ... we are leaving the team and fans in good hands."

    On January 12, 2001, the SuperSonics won their first game of the Schultz era against the Vancouver Grizzlies in the Key Arena. The score was Sonics, 115; Grizzlies, 102.

    After being purchased by Clay Bennett of Oklahoma, amid controversy and bitterness among the fans, the SuperSonics played their final home game in Seattle on April 13, 2008, ending a 41-year run as Seattle's most successful sports franchise. After this victory, Oklahoma City took possession of the team, renaming it Oklahoma Thunder.

    Click here to read the full essay from Dan Johnson on historylink.org. 


    Ronald Tillery, "Schultz Takes Over Sonics," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, January 12, 2001, p. A-1; Jim Moore, "Sonics open Schultz Era with Victory Over Vancouver," Ibid., January 13, 2001, (Seattlep-i.com); www.supersonics.com (http://www.supersonics.com). 
    Note: This essay was updated on January 11, 2010.

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