As time draws close to decision time for the NBA on approving the Maloof family's agreement to sell the Sacramento Kings to Chris Hansen we have an interesting situation. The hopeful folks in Sacramento that are attempting to provide a bid to buy the franchise are reportedly not interested in matching the increased offer from Chris Hansen.
It appears that they are hanging onto the idea that the NBA will accept a lower bid, even though the NBA isn't actually selling the franchise.
Accepting the lower bid may be a minor item at this point. The situation may be trending toward antitrust.
First, lets clear up who owns the team and chooses a lower bid, or not. Then, let's look at Antitrust.
Bob Condotta reported a while back on a on who actually has to accept a lower bid in order to keep the team in Sacramento.
Also included in the story is a quote from an unnamed legal source stating that the NBA can take a lower offer for the Kings.
I asked sports law expert Michael McCann about that tonight. Here’s what he said:
"Yes. The NBA can do that — as a private association that sets its own rules the NBA has the capacity to evaluate bids as they see it. Bidders are not guaranteed having the highest bids means they win the bidding. But I suspect some owners would be uncomfortable voting for a lesser offer. Also the Maloofs would have to agree to take lesser offer, otherwise the team will not be sold for less."
Seattle Times' Bob Condotta, Sacramento Bee — No new Sacramento offer yet
Simply put, the Maloofs decide on what an acceptable dollar offer is. The NBA could reject Hansen's Purchase and Sales Agreement, but, without a matching offer they could not be compelled to sell to Sacramento hopefuls.
If somebody out there thinks the Maloofs would give up millions of dollars just because the NBA said so, then they must be forgetting that the Maloof family has retained an antitrust lawyer. It isn't as if the Maloofs would have much to lose by playing hardball at this point, potentially leaving $16 million dollars behind.
The case for the Maloofs or Chris Hansen for antitrust doesn't look all that hard to make. I'm not a lawyer, but I can read:
The Sherman Act prohibits price-fixing. This is some type of collaboration among competitors for the purpose of raising, depressing, fixing, or stabilizing the price of a commodity. Price fixing is a per se violation of the Sherman Act. This type of conduct is considered unreasonable and illegal, and there is no defense. Setting minimum prices is unlawful since it discourages competition even if the prices are reasonable. Setting maximum prices is also illegal since this has a tendency to stabilize prices. USLegal, Inc., Antitrust Law & Legal Definition
I'm sure there are lurking lawyers that could correct me here, but, fixing a maximum price and restraining the relocation to a more lucrative market just isn't ok.
On April 8, KPLU-FM reported on a possible antitrust lawsuit.
Why should the Sacramento Kings be worth more than $500 million when they’re nowhere near the top of the league? Sports economist Roger Noll of Stanford University says it’s simple: a scarce supply of teams. That's by design, he says, because NBA owners want to keep their franchises valuable. And that exposes the league to a possible lawsuit. "Whichever city is going to lose has an antitrust case against the NBA for not having a team in that city," Noll said. Noll says either city would have a case to make because both cities are viable locations for the team and either one could argue the league is illegally restricting the number of teams. He says it’s kind of like the railroad cartels more than a century ago. "The crucial issue is whether the purpose and effect of the restriction is simply to enhance the monopoly power of the existing set of teams," Noll said. Economist says Sacramento Kings fight may yield antitrust lawsuit
Would it be beyond the Maloof family, or your family, to not fight for $16 million dollars?
would it be beyond Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer to leverage the two acceptable markets into both cities having team?
No, and this may be where things are going.