I thought it would be interesting to list out a chart of the legal terrain that the Boomer Schooner has to transverse (and give you all a new thread for comments :-) ). It is easy to see that losses in the hundreds of millions is likely and after all that he may never get to move the team and will risk having it taken from him. When you are a businessman you chart "risk v reward" and it doesn't have to get very deep into this to see that the risk far outstrips the potential reward:
1) City suit over specific performance:
W) Team stays until 2010
A) City sues for damages for loss of revenue due to Bennett intentionally driving down sharable revenues.
B) Businesses with financial losses could also file for damages.
L) Bennett could then ask for a trial to determine damages owed the city if he breaks the lease. Only upon determination of that amount can he decide if he wants to pay it and get out of the lease. Appeals by city will prevent move until case has completed appeals process.
2) Schultz case asking for sale to be rescinded.
W) Team would be sold by court, probably at appraised value, net remaining after all damages are paid would be returned to Bennett.
L) Bennett would retain ownership of team.
Appeals could take years and delay resolution of the case keeping the team here in the process. These are cases that will set new standards in sports law so you can be sure either side will drive the process as far as possible.
3) Class action suit by fans:
Potential exposure of $15 million or more. Case is pretty simple and likely to win
4) Eminent Domain:
Flyers have been handed out at home games by groups pushing for eminent domain proceedings should Bennett survive this far. With 41 years of history and the league promoting itself as a community asset in order to get public funding a case can be made that the team could be taken for the public good.
While a win would have the team is taken from Bennett who iwould be paid appraised value of the team it would be impossible to imagine the NBA allowing a case to even get into court. Losing one of these cases would mean that the NBA would never get public money again and would never be able to move a team without the risk of having it taken from them.
As mentioned previously if this case drags out long enough Congress will want to jump in just for the show if nothing else. Not something the league wants to do.
6) At some point the players, sponsors, and broadcast partners will start to line up demanding to be compensated for lost revenues if they are faced with 2 years of lame duck status. The potential losses to the owners would be far more than any gain they think they could get out of OKC.
7) Bennett is the one on the hook with OKC to provide a team not Shultz or the NBA. If for any reason the Sonics stay in Seattle Bennett could find himself in legal hot water in his home town. He can probably get his good friends to let him out of the lease there but if not he could be in for even more damages.
The scary part for Bennett is that if he losses control of the team he is likely to be paid based on apprasied value of the team rather than his purchase price since it can be claimed that he has devalued the product with his actions. This alone could cost him up to $100 million.