Aug 162013

Hansen = STOP rumors ARE TRUE

I too had seen the rumors (I’ll credit SactownRoyalty’s JasoninNYC on 8/10) and seemingly wild accusations around who was funding the STOP signature drive in Sacramento.  I shoved it aside because, as much as I dislike Chris Hansen’s arena drive, I didn’t think he was crazy enough to fund any sort of “anti-sports arena funding” efforts while he was still desiring to join the club of NBA team owners.  Boy was I wrong.

Today, the Sacramento Bee (and many other outlets, including those closer to home) have this bombshell confirming that Hansen cut a $100,000 donation to the signature effort, which is likely their entire funding.

Chris Hansen Secretly Funded Campaign Against New Sacramento Arena

So it turns out that the guy who tried to buy the Kings and move them to Seattle is kind of a giant scumbag. Huh, how about that.

A volunteer group known as STOP (Sacramento Taxpayers Opposed to Pork) has been trying to force a public referendum on the construction of a new arena that is a necessity for the Kings to stay in Sacramento. About a month after the NBA turned down Chris Hansen’s bid to move the Kings to Seattle, STOP received a mysterious $80,000 donation from a Los Angeles law firm.

Yesterday, a California watchdog group filed suit to force the firm to reveal the identity of the donor, something it had been fighting for weeks. Today, the identity leaked. It was Chris Hansen.

The story is still developing, and there’s a lot of spin being thrown around by Hansen supporters but no statement from Hansen yet on (a place he once announced his increase bid for the Kings to the entire world).

In absence of the response, I’ll leave you with this statement from May 20th’s SonicsArena statement:

This was never about Seattle fans versus Sacramento fans, and it goes unsaid that there is a mutual respect given the circumstances we have both been through. This process was instead about our group and our city putting our best foot forward in an honest and transparent way to return basketball to Seattle, and in that regard our efforts remain undeterred.


Hansen has released a response on the SonicsArena website.  It basically says that he contracted a law firm to monitor groups seeking to undermine Sacramento’s arena plans and “made a mistake” giving a donation to support their efforts.  Deadspin got it wrong, Hansen is no billionaire, so I really have to wonder if he didn’t realize he was giving enough money to pretty much entirely fund a signature drive.  Hansen’s response also calls into question the bravado of his statements regarding a binding agreement that all parties know is the right deal.

EDIT:  As pointed out by a commenter, Hansen’s donation was listed as being received  6/21 (more than a month after the 5/15 NBA BoG vote in Sacramento’s favor).  Maybe you could spin that to “Hansen promised them a bunch of money before mid-May and then decided to make a mistake and send the check via really slow delivery methods such that it took a long time to arrive and be recorded”, but that’s laughably unlikely.

I made a mistake I regret.

When our binding agreement to purchase the Sacramento Kings became a competitive situation and we were faced with both the prospect of seeing our transaction fail and losing our $30 million deposit, I engaged Loeb & Loeb to canvas the various opposition groups to gain an understanding of their efforts and the prospects of their success. 

During this time I was approached through Loeb by the opposition about making a contribution to the opposition’s efforts as part of a broader group and agreed to make a donation.

On a side note, I thought the NBA collectively offered to make Hansen whole on the $30M deposit and he declined.  Was that a Sports Illustrated error ?  If you don’t take advantage of a money-back offer then I think you don’t get sympathy for that.

  4 Responses to “Chris Hansen Funding Sacramento Referendum Group’s Efforts – Expect a Stern Response”

  1. The timing problem for Chris Hansen: if he made the donation during the heat of battle when “faced” with losing the Kings purchase, ie, before the May 15 board of governor vote, how is it the payment to the signature gatherers was made on June 21st more than a month later? There is still more to this story.

    • Pretty sure that part is a bunch of spin. He probably read the lay of the land and decided that his best opportunity for a team in the next few years was to see if he could derail Johnson/Ranadive/etc and enact that “build an arena or else” clause they were told about at the vote. I applaud Sacramento for getting to the bottom of who was funding the drive/STOP.

  2. If Hansen was going to pull this move he should have gone ahead with the Clayton Bennett model from the beginning. He should have purchased the team and tried half-heatedly to get a deal done in Sacramento, making the terms so unreasonable as to ensure that no deal would be struck. Then he could have moved the team to Seattle without any obstruction.

    What would David Stern have been able to say? Sacramento had no lease to which to hold Hansen. In Bennett’s case, he had to sue the City of Seattle for a release from the lease agreement. David Stern assisted Bennett by threatening to permanently bar Seattle from ever getting the NBA back if Bennett wasn’t released. He would not have been able to assist Sacramento.

    At this point, Hansen’s ArenaCo (which includes Steve Ballmer, and Eric and Pete Nordstrom) might as well sue for antitrust. Adam Silver will continue to lock Hansen out of the league given recent events, but ArenaCo actually has a strong antitrust case.

    Forget the other owners. Senator Slade Gorton successfully sued MLB over Seattle’s loss of the Pilots -leading to the Mariners expansion team on 1977 – and it hasn’t hurt Mariners owners one bit! Also consider that MLB had an antitrust exemption that the NBA does not have. ArenaCo would wipe the floor with the NBA, and David Stern and Adam Silver both know it. That’s why they are dangling soft promises of an opportunity to bid for an expansion franchise, which amounts to absolutely NOTHING!

    • Well, you must remember that Schultz had pressed pretty hard for his own arena deal for several years before the team was sold to Bennett, who won over even some SoS leaders with his efforts, who pressed for an arena for several years as well. Also, the NBA probably felt like it owed OKC and Clay a favor for helping out with the Hornets. Clay had been an insider for years.

      Afterall, Stern himself stepped in to negotiate the previous arena deal in Sacramento that it seemed like all were fine with until the Maloofs couldn’t come up with the cash to sign the papers. I think Hansen would have been laughed out of the BoG if he brought Ballmer in and established a record bid for the team but acted like he didn’t have the cash to accept the last Sac deal or its lease/non-relocate.

      Nope, Hansen would have to play a much longer game to even attempt to pull a Bennett maneuver.

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