SEATTLE (Reuters) - Chris Hansen, the hedge fund manager who is leading an investor group seeking to buy the Sacramento Kings and move them to Seattle, wants fans who miss their old basketball team to sign up for tickets.
Hansen and his co-investors - including Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer - have struck a deal to buy the Kings. But the National Basketball Association must approve the deal and Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson has lined up investors who will make a counter offer.
In his first public comments since the deal was announced in January, Hansen pushed fans to sign up for a priority ticket wait list to show NBA officials "the unbelievable passion" in Seattle for the the sport. An Oklahoma businessman bought the SuperSonics and moved them to Oklahoma City in 2008.
"No inference should be drawn between our establishment of the Priority Ticket Waitlist and our efforts to close our acquisition of the Sacramento Kings," Hansen wrote on SonicsArena.com, a website tracking his progress to build the team a new arena.
Hansen said the wait list, which is set to go live on SonicsArena.com on Thursday morning, is not a guarantee that the fan will get tickets - or that his investor group will win NBA approval.
"We are in the midst of working through the approval and relocation process with the NBA," he said, adding he expects the league to rule in mid-April on the sale, which reports have valued at roughly $340 million.
The deal has been met with notable challenges, including one last month from investors recruited by Johnson, who has been gunning to keep the Kings in the California capital.
A Seattle port workers union is also trying to block construction of the proposed $490 million sports arena that would house the team in an industrial corridor south of downtown on the grounds it violates state environmental laws.
A judge initially threw out their case on February 22, but they appealed the ruling in March.
It is widely expected that Hansen will give the Kings the SuperSonics name and install the team at KeyArena while a new stadium is built.
(Reporting by Eric M. Johnson; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Leslie Gevirtz)
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