Ask for more juice and ye shall receive it.
Burrowing deeper through the publicly released materials involving the proposed Tuwkila arena, Sonics Rising was able to discover a link between rumored NBA investor Thomas Tull and the B&B Sports and Entertainment, LLC, commonly referred to as "the Russell Group." Tull's name was first brought to light by ESPN's Bill Simmons back in January when the Atlanta Hawks first went on sale.
B&B is the corporation formed in 2012 by former NBA stars Fred Brown and Bill Russell, both of whom were associated with the Seattle SuperSonics. Russell coached the team for four seasons in the '70s, while Brown was both an All-Star and an NBA champion with the team. Brown still holds franchise records for most points scored in a regular season game (58), most points scored in a playoff game (45, tied with Ray Allen), and most steals in a game (10, tied with Gus Williams).
B&B was also founded with former NBA player James "BB" Fontenet and Jerry Lee, chairman of Bellevue's MulvannyG2 Architecture, with the intent of developing an arena solution to return pro basketball to the Seattle area. It is Lee with his experience that has spearheaded most of the communication of the project.
Ray Bartoszek joined the group last year with an eye towards securing an NHL franchise. He is believed to be its major financial contributor.
Tull is, of course, founder and current CEO of Legendary Pictures, a film production company. Legendary long had a production and distribution relationship with Warner Bros., producing, amongst other things, the extremely popular and successful Dark Knight trilogy from director Christopher Nolan. Late last year, Legendary shifted alliances over to Universal Pictures.
In January, we reached out to Tull's people to inquire about his interest in the Hawks. We were told that Tull was not interested in purchasing the team, which soon matched public comments that shot down any pursuit. However, we were told that Tull was perhaps interested in another NBA opportunity to bring a team to Seattle. From context, it appeared Simmons heard two different rumors that got merged into one, though from our understanding, the ownership group fronted by investor Chris Hansen never inquired about, nor made a bid for, the Hawks because the NBA strictly wanted to keep the team in Atlanta.
In emails exchanged in February between the City of Tukwila, the Russell Group, project advisers and contractors, and a gentleman named Clint Kisker, they review an agenda for a conference call to talk about various aspects of the project, including Legendary's involvement in investing in future development. Amongst other key topics of the call were steps to securing an NHL term sheet, updates on the land acquisition and arena design, an update on the potential of an NBA team, and their public response, or lack of one, to the media hype around that time.
Kisker is the Executive Vice President of Business Development for Legendary Pictures.
Leading up to the call, Kisker asks the city for a "summary of the land we control/own and the development lots around the arena and garage."
The email chain continues with the finalizing of a meeting in Tukwila to visit the site that occurred on February 17, 2015. Kisker flew to Seattle accompanied by Bob Newman, the President of Facilities at AEG. For those unfamiliar, the Facilities arm of AEG, the well-known sports franchise owner and arena developer, is their arena management team. Comments from KING5-TV's Chris Daniels yesterday mentioned both AEG and architectural firm Populous as being involved as potential designers for the new arena.
Of Nelson's attendance, Kisker says:
We've discussed their interest in providing certain arena services (sponsorship sales, building management etc) as well as potential investment into LSG Seattle arena if we are willing to accept it and they would like to get more detail on where we are.
That title, LSG Seattle, is important. Following the meeting, on February 20, 2015, a non-disclosure agreement was drafted for Kisker and his team. The recipient is a newly formed organization known as Legendary Sports Group Seattle. Included in the Tukwila information release is a copy of the draft of the NDA. LSG Seattle's logo is featured at the top and includes the now-familiar Legendary Celtic knot design.
A further email between Lee's firm MulvannyG2 and Derek Speck, the Economic Development Administrator for the City of Tukwila, mentions that the city will be hiring consultants to aid in their environmental review process. A notation in the email suggests that Legendary Sports Group Seattle will be paying for the process to produce an EIS on the project.
There is nothing that specifically addresses LSG Seattle as more than an arena project investor. Aside from the mention of the land and the potential payment for the SEPA process, there are no specifics on what investment has already been provided by the organization, nor any planned future investment. However, with Tull's interest in acquiring an NBA franchise known, it is more than coincidental to see the group involved.
This is a confirmed direct link between Tull's people and arena interests in the Seattle area.
In other arena news, Sonics Rising confirmed with Seattle Department of Planning and Development today that the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the SoDo arena proposal is still on track to be published on May 7th. City records also show that Land Use and Zoning reviews have been completed and results should appear in the FEIS.
A big shout-out to Colin O'Keefe with our SB Nation sister site Lookout Landing for contributions and assistance to this story.
Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times says Wait a minute...
Been working the Thomas Tull angle for the #Tukwila arena story all day. Multiple sources confirm that Tull is not involved with project.— Geoff Baker (@GeoffBakerTIMES) April 30, 2015
Clint Kisker, land acquisition specialist for Legendary Studios, told me via email his Tukwila visit in Feb. not related to Tull or studio— Geoff Baker (@GeoffBakerTIMES) April 30, 2015
Kisker also said Tull and the studio have no involvment with the #Tukwila project. Kisker did not comment on extent of personal invovlvent.— Geoff Baker (@GeoffBakerTIMES) April 30, 2015
I'm told by sources that Kisker may have reported back to Tull on some of what he saw in his visit. But Tull decided against involvement.— Geoff Baker (@GeoffBakerTIMES) April 30, 2015
To be fair, sources had told us the same information that Tull had been approached by Bartoszek to participate but had declined to join the Tukwila effort, which is why the mentions of Legendary in the Tukwila paperwork were surprising. It is possible that LSG Seattle has everything to do with Clint Kisker and nothing to do with Thomas Tull or the production company.
We have put in a request for comment with Thomas Tull's representatives. More when, and if, we hear back.