Updated at: 05/31/2013 9:36 PM
By ANTONIO GONZALEZ
A new owner is in place. A new coach is on the way. And for the first time in 14 years, Sacramento Kings fans can celebrate a new era.
The Maloof family completed the sale of the Kings and Sleep Train Arena to a group led by TIBCO Software chairman Vivek Ranadive on Friday, officially transferring ownership of the NBA franchise. Ranadive’s group acquired a 65 percent controlling interest in the team at a total franchise valuation of more than $534 million, topping the NBA record of $450 million that Joe Lacob and Peter Guber paid for the Golden State Warriors in 2010.
"We are pleased for both the Maloof family and the Ranadive group, but particularly pleased for the fans of the Kings," NBA Commissioner David Stern said.
Brothers George, Joe and Gavin Maloof also released statements thanking NBA owners, Stern and the family’s limited partners with the Kings. George Maloof specifically praised Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and the City Council "for their efforts and loyalty to the Sacramento community."
Ranadive, a former minority owner of the Warriors, already has been busy making moves to rebuild the fallen franchise.
The Kings have an agreement in place with Warriors assistant Mike Malone to become their head coach, a person familiar with the decision told The Associated Press. The person, speaking on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly, said Malone was Ranadive’s top choice.
The Kings released a statement late Friday afternoon confirming Keith Smart, who had one year remaining on his contract, was fired as coach. Smart took over the Kings for the fired Paul Westphal in January 2012, and he was dismissed by the Warriors in similar fashion by new owners following the 2010-11 season.
"I enjoyed my time immensely in Sacramento," Smart said. "From working with the people in basketball operations to the business side of the organization to interacting with the people of the city, it was a pleasure to be around such a classy group."
Ranadive still has to hire a general manager _ a move that typically comes before finding a coach; the contract for president of basketball operations Geoff Petrie ends June 30.
In a statement released through the Kings, Ranadive thanked all involved.
"Mayor Kevin Johnson and the leadership group of Sacramento should be commended for their relentless efforts, hard work and tireless drive to keep the Kings in the city where they belong," Ranadive said. "We also extend our thanks to the Maloof Family for their support and cooperation throughout the sale process. Because of their efforts, this team has risen to an impressive legacy, which includes the most passionate fanbase in the NBA.
"Again, thank you to Sacramento Kings fans for their unwavering commitment and loyalty to myself and this organization. Without them, this success would not have become a reality. At the end of the day, this team belongs to the people of Sacramento, and our mission is to support them. We are excited to begin the process of building a 21st century franchise that will be a source of pride and excitement for years to come."
The sale’s completion capped a comeback few outside California’s capital city believed would happen.
After owners blocked the Maloofs’ agreement with investor Chris Hansen to buy and relocate the Kings to Seattle earlier in May at a total franchise valuation of $625 million, the family pushed ahead with the "backup offer" to sell the team to Ranadive’s group.
The Sacramento group also includes 24 Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov, former Facebook senior executive Chris Kelly and the Jacobs family that owns communications giant Qualcomm.
"We congratulate Vivek Ranadive and the entire Sacramento investor group for their willingness to come forward and purchase the franchise for the people of Sacramento. We are confident they will provide the stewardship necessary to continue to guide the organization to successful levels," George Maloof said.
"Congratulations Sacramento!" Johnson wrote on Twitter. He also thanked the NBA, the outgoing and incoming owners of the Kings, and Sacramento residents.
The transfer of the team ended the Maloof family’s topsy-turvy reign as majority owners of the team.
The Kings reached the playoffs for the first seven years under the Maloofs and missed each of the last seven. Sacramento won back-to-back Pacific Division titles in the 2001-02 and 2002-03 seasons, advancing to the 2002 Western Conference finals, when it lost in heartbreaking fashion to the eventual champion Los Angeles Lakers in seven games.
After that, the franchise started its slow and painful decline.
The Maloofs, once the toast of Sacramento, fell out of favor with fans. The suburban arena aged rapidly. Ticket sales declined. And the family explored moving the franchise to Las Vegas, Anaheim and Virginia Beach over several years until announcing an agreement with Hansen’s group in January.
Led by Johnson, Sacramento fought back and made it too difficult for NBA owners to allow the Kings to move to Seattle. The mayor, a former NBA All-Star guard, got the Sacramento City Council to approve a non-binding financing plan for a $447 million downtown arena with a $258 million public subsidy.
The Maloofs still had to agree to sell the franchise to Ranadive’s group. And in the end, they did _ after raising the value of the franchise to a record price.
"The success of the Sacramento Kings has been due largely in part to the dedication and enthusiasm of our team members, coaches, players, and fans," Joe Maloof said. "Since our family has owned the franchise, the people of Sacramento have warmly brought the Kings into their hearts and for that we will always be grateful. As we look forward to an exciting new chapter in our family business enterprise, we will never forget the people of Sacramento and everything they have done for the Kings organization."
Antonio Gonzalez can be reached at: www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)