SEATTLE — On July 2, 2008, a $75 million settlement was announced between the current owner of the Seattle Supersonics Clay Bennett, and the city of Seattle. As a result, the Supersonics left to Oklahoma City, leaving only the team name, team colors and 41 years of team history.
The settlement broke a bond with the city that resulted in a six-day federal trial over terms of the team’s lease with KeyArena. Bennett, and his professional Basketball Club LLC, paid $75 million to the city in exchange for the immediate termination of the lease.
Clay Bennett purchase
Bennett purchased the Sonics for $350 million in October, 2006, from Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz. The terms of the sale required his ownership group to “use good faith best efforts” for a term of 12 months in securing a new arena lease or venue in the Seattle area.
In February 2007, Bennett proposed using tax dollars to pay for a new $500 million arena in Renton. Bennett gave up his attempt in April 2007, after he failed to reach a deal by the end of the legislative session.
In September 2007 Bennett applied for arbitration to determine whether the team could break its lease in 2008. The city of Seattle filed for 'declaratory relief', arguing that "the lease does not allow for arbitration on the issue of occupancy."
The motion from the city asked the King County Superior court to reject the arbitration request and "subsequently enforce the Specific Performance Clause of the Sonics’ lease", which required the team to play at KeyArena through 2010.
In October 2007, U.S. District Court Judge Ricardo Martinez denied Bennett’s request for arbitration.
On April 18, 2008, NBA owners approved a potential relocation of the Sonics to Oklahoma City in a 28-2 vote. Only Paul Allen, owner of the Seattle Seahawks and Portland Trail Blazers, and Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, voted against the move.
Despite the denied request for arbitration in October 2008, the $75 million settlement between Bennett and the city of Seattle was announced on July 2, 2008, and allowed the team to move under certain conditions.
The conditions required items associated with the Sonics’ history in Seattle to stay in the city in the Museum of History & Industry.
‘The former Sonics’
In the 2008-2009 NBA season the Sonics officially became the ‘Oklahoma City Thunder’.
In 2012, during the team’s run to the NBA Finals, KIRO 7 said “throughout their run KIRO 7 promises you we won’t say OKC or their team name in our newscasts.”
‘The former Sonics’ play their home games at Chesapeake Energy Arena and have been to the playoffs nine times. Their best season came in 2011-2012 when they lost to the Miami Heat in five games in the NBA Finals.