Seattle has an ownership group ready to buy an NBA team. They’re just waiting on NBA commissioner Adam Silver.
Tim Leiweke, who respectively managed NBA arenas in Los Angeles and Toronto as president and CEO of Anschutz Entertainment Group and Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment, is calling his Oak View Group “the best” chance at bringing the SuperSonics back to Seattle, even if it takes another decade.
“I know you want me to say. You want me to say I’m getting the Sonics back and they’re moving next back year. I’ve been saying all along I won’t lie to you. … You’re going to have to trust us.”
“It’s not going to happen tomorrow and it’s not going to happen in a year. We need to understand that when the commissioner of the NBA says, ‘I believe Seattle is going to get a team, but it may take 5-10 years,’ he means it.”
“We are going to be patient and let it play out and people need to understand if there’s a chance to bring the Sonics back to Seattle, we are the best team to make it happen.”
Leiweke’s group reached a deal with the city in September to privately fund a $600 million renovation project on Seattle’s existing KeyArena that could make the arena NBA- and NHL-ready by 2020. The Sonics played at the arena for much of their 41-year run in Seattle, including in 2008, when former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz sold the team to Oklahoma City businessman Clay Bennett. Both Schultz and Bennett had failed to lobby the city for public funding of a KeyArena renovation project.
Leiweke, like most folks in Seattle and elsewhere around the NBA, believed Bennett “had an agenda.”
Now, in addition to the $600 million for the arena, Leiweke says his group has the funding to purchase an NBA team if and when one becomes available to Seattle, either through relocation or expansion.
The NBA issued this statement when news of the arena project became public in September: “The NBA is not involved in the ongoing Seattle arena process, and we have no plans to expand at this time.” Still, Silver told The Players’ Tribune over the summer, “I don’t want to put a precise timeline on it, but it’s inevitable at some point we’ll start looking at growth of franchises. That’s always been the case in this league, and Seattle will no doubt be on a short list of cities we’ll look at.”
And Leiweke told the local TV news station this week that his relationship with Silver and the NBA — which included separate stints over the past decade as the CEO of investment firms that controlled the Raptors and part of the Lakers as well as Toronto’s Air Canada Centre and L.A.’s Staples Center — could help shepherd the league’s return to Seattle better than any other potential ownership group.
“We are 100 percent aligned with the commissioners and the owners in the NBA,” he added.
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