Microsoft's Steve Ballmer, group to pay $500 mn for NBA's Sacramento Kings

Sacramento Kings

A group of investors including Microsoft Corp CEO Steve Ballmer and hedge fund manager Chris Hansen is close to a deal to buy the Sacramento Kings professional basketball team for $500 million and move the National Basketball Association franchise to Seattle, Yahoo Sports reported on Wednesday.

The Maloof family is close to agreeing to sell the Kings to the Ballmer group, which hopes to move the franchise to Seattle in time for the 2013-14 season, Yahoo Sports cited league sources as saying. Reuters could not immediately confirm the accuracy of the report.

As part of the proposed deal, the Kings would play for two seasons in KeyArena - the former stomping grounds of the Seattle Supersonics – before moving into a new facility built with the help of a public financing deal already in place, Yahoo reported.

Ballmer, the NBA and representatives for Hansen all declined to comment.

The Sacramento Kings did not immediately respond to phone calls or emails seeking comment. Seattle city officials told Reuters they were aware of the rumors, but were not in a position to comment.

Seattle lost the SuperSonics franchise in 2008 when it moved to Oklahoma City and was renamed the Thunder. At the time, its owner faulted Seattle officials for not coming up with a plan to build a new arena.

Then last October, officials from Seattle - a stone's throw from Microsoft's corporate base in Redmond - signed off on a pact to bankroll a new NBA arena. That was built on an earlier agreement struck between would-be franchise owner Hansen, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and King County Executive Dow Constantine.

But McGinn was coy when asked about the report on Wednesday.

"I know as much as you do about the Sonics," McGinn told reporters at a re-election news conference on Wednesday. "But if it's true, ain't it cool?"

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