HANG TIME WEST — Businessman-investor-covert-ops man Chris Hansen made sure to be sorry Friday. The man who led the charge to bring basketball back to Seattle was revealed as the anonymous donor behind the Hail Mary bid to stop plans to build an arena to keep the Kings in Sacramento.
A state commission said he broke laws about the lack of disclosure while trying to re-route the team to Seattle, so he apologized. After being caught.
This level of, umm, opposition research is hardly shocking where tycoons of Hansen’s level play every day in deals measured on the Richter scale. And just maybe there are one or two NBA owners who built their money stacks by indiscreet means. But within the NBA itself, the actions are potentially huge.
The Sacramento aspect may actually be the least of the problem. It is certainly the focus of the moment as Hansen searches hard for new lows in league skullduggery, and a particular contrast to what he had displayed in the effort to buy the Kings and then in being gracious in defeat once the Board of Governors kept the team in the California capital. The attempt to stop the arena was a long shot at best amid continued strong signs the plan would move forward (although this is the ultimate never-say-never drama).
If there is an apology to be made, it should be to Seattle for the way Hansen has injured his hometown’s efforts to get the NBA back. That is the true lasting impact of news Hansen secretly contributed $100,000 to help fund the petition drive to derail arena plans in Sacramento.
Ruin hopes in Seattle? Not even close. This doesn’t change the other facts: It is a great sports market with a proven level of support for the NBA and a corporate infrastructure few cities can match. If Hansen is not involved in whatever future bids may develop, there are plenty of other locals who are conversant in big business. And if Hansen is involved, perhaps enough owners shrug away the revelation as a simple misdemeanor of overreaching in the attempt to cover all the bases to close a deal potentially worth billions.
But this is unquestionably a setback in a time when Seattle cannot afford any, given the microscopic difference between winning and losing this kind of game. Look at the layers that went into play in the Sacramento saga, then add one more. Not a positive layer, either.
Hansen’s statement on Friday, via the Sacramento Bee, began with “I made a mistake I regret.” He emphasized he never had direct contact with the group trying to halt the Sacramento arena, apparently keeping his influence to merely helping the group stay afloat and having other people saying what he wanted.
”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.”
He’s going to let the people of Sacramento handle the business of Sacramento. How magnanimous.
Hansen was gracious in defeat when the Board of Governors turned down the attempted purchase and relocation, what appeared to be the final official word from the Seattle side that had done and said so many things right. That group did not lose the bid so much as Sacramento won it because the league believed the future in Northern California could be as bright as the past. It’s just that the apology is really owed to Seattle.
Here’s David Stern explaining the much-talked-about Kings non-move in May: