Microsoft’s Ballmer and Seattle group set to buy Kings-report

SEATTLE/SACRAMENTO, (Reuters) – A group of investors led by hedge fund manager Chris Hansen and Microsoft Corp CEO Steve Ballmer is close to a deal to buy the Sacramento Kings basketball team for $500 million and move the franchise to Seattle, Yahoo Sports reported on Wednesday.

The Maloof family, which has wrangled with the city of Sacramento for years over a new arena and held talks with other cities about moving the team, has now agreed to sell, the report said, citing league sources. Reuters could not confirm the report. The Sacramento Kings did not immediately respond to phone calls or emails seeking comment. Under the reported deal, the Kings would play for two seasons in KeyArena, the stomping ground of the Seattle Supersonics before the team’s 2008 move to Oklahoma City, and then move into a new facility, Yahoo reported. The National Basketball Association franchise is Sacramento’s only major sports team, and its mayor, Kevin Johnson, is a former NBA star.

“I’m going to make every effort that I can possibly do to identify a potential buyer that will ensure that the Sacramento Kings remain in Sacramento,” Johnson told reporters on Wednesday. American cities often clash over sports franchises, which are seen as economic engines and a source of civic pride. The value of sports franchises has soared in recent years, largely as a result of pay television contracts.

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