Nasty, angry, threatening — these are words that describe a letter sent on Tuesday from a California politician intending to vilify Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.
Ballmer is co-leading a Seattle investment group that is extremely close to purchasing the Sacramento Kings and moving the NBA team to the Emerald City for a reported $341 million.
California state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinburg isn’t happy about that — not one bit.
He’s so angry that the 53-year-old addressed a letter to California Department of General Services director Fred Klass asking why Microsoft and Ballmer are “engaging in activities which are clearly measurably detrimental to our State’s job and revenue base — not to mention use profits earned through business with our State to appropriate a California-based asset.”
Yep, the sparks are a-flyin’. Steinburg, a former Sacramento City Council member who was heavily involved in keeping the Kings in Sacramento two years ago, also asks Klass to provide several bits of information relating to how much money Redmond-based Microsoft has earned from the State of California over the past decade.
Reports came out in June that Ballmer was part of the investment group led by Hansen. It’s not surprising: Ballmer was a regular at Sonics games before the team departed for Oklahoma City in 2008 and also was part of another investment group that tried to keep the team here. Seattle has been without a team since then.
USA Today, among a few other media outlets, received the letter that was dated for Tuesday. I’m not sure what to make of this — this letter alone won’t exactly help the Kings stay in Sacramento. It may, however, convince some Californians to stop purchasing Microsoft products.
There are some hurdles to jump over before the deal is done. The NBA Board of Directors still needs to approve the agreement in April — Yahoo calls it a “formality” — and Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson is making a last-second attempt to put together an ownership group to keep the Kings in his city.
Here is the memo in its entirety:
January 22, 2013
Fred Klass, Director
California Department of General Services
707 Third Street
West Sacramento, CA 95605
Dear Director Klass:
I read with distress recent media accounts reporting that Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft Corporation, is actively engaged in discussions and may now have a general agreement to purchase NBA’s Sacramento Kings — a franchise which has generated significant jobs and revenue for both our region and the State of California for 27 years — and move it to another state.
If true, I am troubled that a company and a CEO that has for so long enjoyed a prosperous and beneficial working relationship with the State of California and its taxpayers would blatantly engage in activities which are clearly and measurably detrimental to our State’s job and revenue base – not to mention use profits earned through business with our State to appropriate a California-based asset.
As a legislative leader with direct budget authority, I’m obviously concerned about what impact these events might have on state and regional revenue, as well as our recovering economy.
I would appreciate your help – as the director of the department in charge of most state procurement – in obtaining some information that in light of these reports is certainly relevant to California taxpayers, particularly those in the Sacramento region.
– How many technology contracts and at what total cost to state taxpayers does Microsoft Corporation currently have with the State of California?
-In total dollars, how much has the State of California paid Microsoft Corporation for its products and services over the last 10 years?
– Can you send my office terms of contracts and representations made by Microsoft Corporation regarding their contracts with the State?
-To your knowledge, does any other state in the United States pay more annually to Microsoft Corporation for products and services than the State of California?
– What is Microsoft Corporation’s record of performance with the State of California?
As a state legislator, I am well aware that I have no direct role in the day-to-day management of the State’s technology procurement processes, but I cannot stand idly by while a prominent out-of-state company that has significantly profited from business with the State of California actively attempts to acquire and remove one of my State and my region’s leading private assets.
Thank you in advance for your time and assistance in responding to this information request. Please do not
hesitate to contact my office to discuss this issue in more detail.
Senate President pro Tempore
State of California
6th Senate District
cc: Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr.
Secretary Anna Caballero, State and Consumer Services Agency
UPDATE, 4:18 P.M.: Here’s a statement from Microsoft:
“The effort to build a new professional sports arena in Seattle was initiated and is led by San Francisco-based developer, Chris Hansen, who has announced a number of investors, including Steve Ballmer. Microsoft Corporation is not involved in the effort.” — Microsoft spokesperson