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Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs.
Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs.

By now, you’ve likely either read or had a discussion about the Seattle vs. Silicon Valley entrepreneurial debate. Heck, the good folks over at Killer Infographics even designed the badass poster you see above that artistically describes the different characteristics of each region’s geeks.

Now that discussion is moving to the basketball court.

For a while, it seemed as though Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and his investment group were poised to acquire the Sacramento Kings NBA basketball team when they reached an agreement with the Maloof family in January to buy 65 percent of the Sacramento Kings for a reported $341 million.

But now Sacramento is fighting back, and two tech titans from the Valley have stepped up with more money less than a month before the NBA makes its decision to block the Seattle group’s bid to bring basketball back to the Emerald City.

Last night, Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson announced that San Diego-based Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs has joined the group of investors trying to keep the Kings in town.

This news comes just one week after software giant TIBCO CEO Vivek Ranadive announced his involvement. The two CEOs join a pair of other investors from California — Ron Burkle, a Los Angeles businessman, and Mark Mastrov, founder of 24 Hour Fitness — that will try to block Seattle from acquiring its team.

Johnson Tweeted this about the “whale” investors group:

But here’s the thing. The Ballmer group, which is also led by investor Chris Hansen, already reached an agreement with the current owners and even put down a $30 million non-refundable deposit earlier this year.

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Steve Ballmer.

The Sacramento group will need to convince a group of NBA owners to stop the Seattle deal when everyone meets on April 3. They have a few things going for them with the new investor money and a new arena deal that could be approved Tuesday night. But the owners haven’t been known to block team sales like this very often.

Both parties will reconvene in front of the full NBA Board of Governors at its annual meeting April 18-19 when the official vote happens.

NBA Commissioner David Stern had given Johnson a March 1 deadline to come up with an ownership group that would counter the Hansen/Ballmer offer and convince the NBA to keep the Kings in Sacramento.

Johnson did that on February 28, announcing Burkle’s and Mastrov’s participation. One week later, Stern said publicly that the Sacramento bid was far too low in comparison with what Hansen and Ballmer were offering.

But now the addition of Jacobs and Ranadive will help Sacramento. Still, if Hansen and Ballmer can get a three-quarters supermajority approval from the board next month, the Sonics will be back in Seattle.

In terms of Ballmer’s involvement with all this, reports came out in June that the Microsoft CEO was part of the investment group with 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.

Two months ago, in what was clearly a grandstanding move, California Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinburg sent a letter to the California Department of General Services, citing Ballmer’s involvement in the Kings deal and asking for details of Microsoft’s contracts with the state.

Previously on GeekWire: Seattle’s new arena might look like a supersonic jet engine

Comments

  • Nedra

    Great post!

  • http://twitter.com/RogWilco Nick Williams

    Sacramento has about as much in common with silicon valley as Olympia does with Seattle. San Diego may as well be in another country. I’d say this is more of a CA vs WA thing than anything else.

  • RunTheNumbers

    I sound like a homer with this comment, but I would guess the Kings are coming to Seattle. The NBA needs market exposure, and Seattle is materially larger than the Sacramento market (#12 to #20, per Nielsen in 2012 — equates to about 500k homes.) It’s no secret that the NBA wants back in the Seattle market.

    But, the biggest reason I see the team relocating to Seattle is because of the ownership groups, and how they’ve gone about their business. Sure, Sacramento has pulled some people together at the last minute, but historically that has meant very little to NBA owners. Seattle tried that 11th-hour-investment-group thing back in the day, and it accomplished nothing. If there is one thing everyone should have learned from the Sonics departure in 2008, it’s that NBA owners have shared business interests with each other, and they simply don’t have loyalty to their host cities.

    At this point, I don’t believe the Sacramento investor group can simply match the Hansen group’s offer — they have to beat it by a significant amount.

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