The Seattle SuperSonics and WNBA’s Storm franchises are being sold to a group from Oklahoma City, but will remain in Seattle at least for the time being.
The Professional Basketball Club LLC, headed by OKC businessman Clay Bennett, announced an agreement to buy the two teams.
The Basketball Club of Seattle, which currently owns both teams, has threatened to move the Sonics, saying the team has lost about $60 million in the past five years under a revenue-sharing lease agreement with the City of Seattle.
Bennett’s insistence on keeping the teams in Seattle for at least the short term apparently was a key factor in his winning bid – which reportedly was lower than several others that included plans to move out. However, plans to keep the Sonics in Seattle for the long term would depend on whether the team can reach an agreement with the city to replace or renovate
“It is not our intention to move or relocate the teams – as long, of course, as we are able to negotiate a successor venue to the current basketball arena and arrangements to ensure the Sonics and Storm can succeed,” Bennett said at a press conference.
Departing Sonics majority owner Howard Schultz said the team turned down higher bids from groups that appeared likely to move the Sonics immediately.
“It is really impossible to communicate how difficult this decision has been for us to make,” Schultz said.
Bennett was instrumental in the temporary relocation of the New Orleans Hornets to Oklahoma City following Hurricane Katrina and emerged as a potential investor in the Hornets. He has previously discussed his desire to bring a team to Oklahoma City permanently.
In February, Schultz threatened to move or sell the city’s oldest major league professional sports franchise. The Sonics will begin their 40th season this fall.
Team officials have blamed a KeyArena revenue-sharing lease with the city of Seattle that lasts until 2010. Commissioner David Stern called the lease the worst in the NBA.