SAY this for Chris Hansen: The hedge-fund manager hedged his bets.
Thwarted in his attempt to buy the Sacramento Kings and bring them to Seattle, Hansen made the backdoor play, secretly donating $100,000 to a group seeking a public vote on Sacramento’s new arena plan.
Hansen is too sophisticated to claim ignorance of California election law, which required disclosure of the donation. It was unearthed only after California election authorities sued.
Nor can he claim — as he has tried — that he made a rash decision “in the heat of battle” for the Kings. The donation came a full five weeks after the NBA board of governors swatted his bid for the Kings.
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After the NBA rejected his bid in May, Hansen said in an interview on KJR-AM, “We are not going to be in that position again. We’re not going to be going to another city as a predator and trying to wrestle a team away.”
Nice words, but a month later, he went the “dark money” route — trying to clandestinely blow up his competitors’ winning bid. Not even Clay Bennett, the “great Satan” of Seattle NBA fans, resorted to such dirty tricks.
Hansen had a nice story — the Seattle native who became wildly successful and wanted to give back to his hometown by bringing an NBA team. But his “Seattle nice” veneer has been peeled back. What’s beneath appears to be a win-at-all costs strategy, similar to the one Seattle NBA fans blasted when the Sonics were swiped by Oklahoma City. Hansen, by darker means, appears willing to steal the Kings.
Hansen says his partners in the Seattle arena were not aware of this scheme. That’s good. Hansen’s respected local partners, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Peter and Erik Nordstrom, might reconsider this arrangement, as well as the Sodo location, which poses a threat to Port of Seattle operations. Seattle deserves an NBA franchise — in the right place, with credible owners.
Hansen expressed regret — easy words once you’re caught — as well as renewed intent to bring a team back to Seattle.
If he does, at the very least Hansen should play by his own rules.
The Seattle City Council, which has final say on the proposed arena deal, should add a public referendum, and make Hansen pay for it.
Hansen helped finance an effort to get a public vote in Sacramento. Don’t Seattle voters deserve the same courtesy about public financing of an arena? He should pay for it, too.
Something tells us he’ll be a little less enthusiastic about paying for that one.