Sure it seems a little sleazy, writing a fat check under cover of darkness in an attempt to sabotage your competition. Billionaire Chris Hansen’s secret contribution to a group trying to thwart the construction of a new Sacramento arena – even after Hansen had lost his bid to buy and move the Kings to Seattle – smacked of gutter tactics, like Alex Rodriguez allegedly throwing other PED users under the MLB bus or the old Committee to Re-Elect The President [CREEP] of Watergate and Woodward-Bernstein fame.
But just because something isn’t sporting, old chaps, doesn’t mean that it’s going to get in the way of smart business.
A proper sense of perspective figures to prevail if and when Hansen, on behalf of Seattle, attempts again to return the NBA to that city. That perspective looks something like this:
- $80,000 < $509 billion.
Every day of the week and twice on Sunday, as a matter of fact.
Adam Silver, NBA deputy commissioner and the man who will slide over one spot when David Stern retires Feb. 1 after 30 years in the job, assured Seattle reporters that Hansen’s bit of chicanery likely would not be a deal breaker if he were to make another bid for an NBA team, via either relocation or expansion.
Hansen and two political consultants agreed Monday to pay a $50,000 fine for failing to disclose the donation for a petition effort on behalf of arena opponents. Its goal: Force a citywide vote on Sacramento’s $258 million in public subsidy to the project. Hansen’s bid of $625 million was rejected by the NBA Board of Governors, who chose as Kings buyers a group led by Vivek Ranadive for $535 million.
The anti-arena donation, which violated California campaign-disclosure laws, raised some eyebrows over Hansen’s tactics but probably won’t place hurdles in front of a renewed Seattle effort, should Hansen still be involved, reported Percy Allen of the Seattle Times:
“I would say it won’t affect Seattle’s chances,” Silver said Sunday in Springfield, Mass., before the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame ceremony. “I haven’t talked to Chris since those allegations came out. I think as he said, he got caught up in the moment.”
Silver also said:
“We have a lot of competitive owners in the league,” he said “I’m sure all of that will be put behind us.”
To put it another way: NBA owners didn’t get to be multi-millionaires and billionaires by letting little ethical hiccups get in the way of megadeals. Hansen’s ploy was bad form, embarrassing and worthy of some tsk-tsking in the mahogany-paneled inner sanctum. But a hastily stroked, pull-no-punches check for $80,000 isn’t about to scuttle a deal that could deliver a half billion dollar (or more) windfall as an expansion fee to be divvied up among the current 30 teams (that is the Forbes 2013 average franchise value, which was how Charlotte was valued when it entered in 2004). Or an even bigger payday for one of the league’s poorer sisters, moving the revenue-sharing NBA back into the USA’s No. 12 TV market.
The NBA, through Stern and the Governors, has been known to drive home political, financial and even ethical points before. It took a stand, some would say, choosing the lower bid so the Kings could stay in Sacramento. (And it did not, Seattle fans might allege, in allowing Oklahoma City businessman Clay Bennett to abscond with SuperSonics in the first place.)
But if Hansen remains the most viable option as a deep-pocketed Seattle owner, and the best candidate to land the $200 million subsidies for a new $490 million arena, there’s no way the NBA and its owners snub him. A Sonics redux would be good for business, with a lot more zeroes involved than the regrettable check Hansen cut.