The Seattle SuperSonics were sold yesterday for $350 million to a group from Oklahoma City, prompting immediate speculation that the team would be relocated there after its lease at Key Arena expires in 2010.
The team has been enmeshed in fractious negotiations with city and state officials to renovate the arena. That breakdown led Howard Schultz, the chairman of Starbucks, who acquired the team for $200 million five years ago, to find a new owner with a better chance at success.
David Stern, the National Basketball Association commissioner, had called the Sonics’ lease the worst in the league and recently warned that the team might leave Seattle.
“The city is making it pretty clear of what they want us to do,” Stern said in April, “and we’ll accommodate them.”
At a news conference yesterday at the Sonics’ training facility, Schultz said, “In making this transaction, we made it with the belief that the group has a genuine interest in keeping the teams in Seattle for the future.”
The acquisition also included the W.N.B.A. Storm.
Clay Bennett, the leader of the new ownership group, did not fully commit the Sonics and Storm to staying in Seattle. He said he would spend the next 12 months trying to make a deal to keep the team in the area.
[Only registered and activated users can see links. ]