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After Kings’ sale, Gavin Maloof says he’s ‘glad the team is staying’ in Sacramento

Gavin Maloof enjoyed being a member of a very exclusive club. But he and his brothers are ready to move on.

Pending approval of the NBA’s Board of Governors, the Maloofs are out of the basketball business, having sold the Sacramento Kings Friday for a league record $535 million to software tycoon Vivek Ranadive who leads a consortium that will keep the Kings in California’s capital and playing in a new $447 million arena downtown.

The sale to Ranadive and his partners, which include 24 Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov, former Facebook senior executive Chris Kelly and the Jacobs family, which owns communications giant Qualcomm, is expected to be approved by the NBA next week. According to the Sacramento Bee, the Maloofs will walk away with $230 million once all debts and other obligations have been met.

“We had a lot of good years in Sacramento,” Gavin Maloof said Friday, referring to the 14 years his family owned the team after purchasing controlling interest from Jim Thomas in 1999. “I’m glad the team is staying there.”

The Maloofs were prepared to let the Kings move to Seattle after having struck a deal with hedge-fund billionaire Chris Hansen for $90 million more than the Ranadive-Sacramento group was offering. But the owners voted 22-8 against relocation on Wednesday, thus killing the Seattle deal. The Maloofs quickly agreed to terms with Ranadive, who will sell his share of ownership in the Golden State Warriors to take over the Kings.

“It was too good an offer to pass up,” Gavin Maloof said of the competing deals that ultimately led to the brothers becoming former owners.

For the Maloof brothers, owning an NBA team was a special thing. They would sit courtside most nights, decked out in Kings jerseys, connecting with their fans the way few owners do. But as the team went through a steady decline on the court over the last six years, the love affair between fans and owners quickly soured. The Maloofs were infrequent visitors to Sleep Train Arena, the Kings’ home since 1988. And when they did show up, they sat in a luxury box, segregated from the fans.

And while dealings with the city got contentious at times over trying to find a way to build a new arena, in the end, the Maloofs and Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson both got what they wanted.

“You have your ups and downs in any negotiation,” George Maloof said. “We always had a good relationship with Kevin. He fought for his city and we fought for what we felt needed to be a fair deal.

“But at the end of the day, the team’s staying in Sacramento and that’s the important thing.”

Johnson, the former NBA All-Star who had spent the last five months trying to pull together an ownership group and arena financier to match the Hansen-Seattle bid, said Friday it was about keeping what was Sacramento’s.

“This was one heck of a comeback,” Johnson said. “Seattle is a great city and we want them to get a team. For us, it was never a competition. It was about our community telling our story.

“It’s about not letting someone take something that’s not theirs.”

This is the second time the Maloofs and the NBA have parted ways. Back in 1982, the family sold controlling interest in the Houston Rockets to Charlie Thomas after their father, George Maloof Sr., bought the team in 1979.

“Being part of a prestigious club like the NBA is something we’ll all miss,” George Maloof said. “There’s only 30 members of that club so that was very special for our family.”

Gavin Maloof said: “I loved hearing the roar of the crowd, the adulation that comes with winning. That’s what I’m going to miss the most.”

The Maloofs are moving on and they have their memories. But don’t be surprised if they re-surface again as sports team owners at some point, perhaps here in Las Vegas, where they all own homes. They are monitoring the proposed plans of MGM Resorts to build an arena as well as the UNLV Now stadium project. Las Vegas remains on the NBA’s radar. Same with Major League Soccer.

“Perhaps one day we’ll have another opportunity, maybe in another sport, to get back into it,” Gavin Maloof said. “You never know. Right now, we’ll take a deep breath and a step back.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.

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