Basketball fans know the Maloofs. Hockey fans may soon, too.
The NHL has chosen that family, whose ownership of the Sacramento Kings turned messy before a 2013 sale, and businessman William Foley as the theoretical owners of a theoretical Las Vegas expansion team, reports the New York Post.
Deputy commissioner Bill Daly told the Star Tribune on Tuesday that the league had toured an arena site and met with potential ownership groups in Vegas. This, according to the Post, is the latter, though Daly wouldn’t confirm the report to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
“We haven’t made any decisions on expansion yet, much less expansion to Las Vegas,” Daly said. “We have not discussed or identified potential ownership groups publicly.”
Foley and the Maloofs, according to The Hockey News, were approved as potential owners at the last NHL Board of Governors meeting. Daly told THN, again, that people are getting too far ahead of themselves.
“There was virtually no discussion about Las Vegas (or expansion for that matter) at the last Board meeting,” Daly wrote in an email. “Far from a ‘done deal.’ Still have to deal with the foundational question of whether we want to expand at all and if so how do we want to do it. And that hasn’t really been broached with the BOG yet. After that, we will have to tackle whether Las Vegas is the right market, and specifically, whether we think it can support an NHL franchise long term. I think more work needs to be done on that issue as well.”
Still, the league’s interest in Vegas — and the $400 million fee a team would command — is public, and it wouldn’t be without some interested parties. If expansion happens, Vegas has to be viewed as the most obvious candidate.
Foley is the chairman of mortgage company Fidelity National Financial and, as of 2012, was worth $600 million and a “billionaire in the making,” according to Forbes. His total compensation in 2013 was about $50 million — so the billionaire label affixed to him by the Post seems apt enough.
Still, the Maloofs — there are four brothers, one sister and mother Colleen — are infinitely more interesting for two reasons.
First, they’ve got serious Vegas ties; they developed the Palms Hotel and Casino in 2000 and turned it into a big deal. Here’s a New York Times Magazine story from 2004 focusing on brothers Gavin and Joe, and the family’s foray’s into beverage distribution, a stint as owners of the NBA Rockets in the 1970s and ’80s, and Las Vegas.
After high-profile success with the Palms (“The Real World” filmed there, for example) and a $600 million expansion, the family had to sell 98 percent of the business to creditors in 2010. The Maloofs continue to be involved with entertainment products. Several have involved the Lohan family … so there’s that.
Second, their history with the Kings was uneven and had an ugly end. The late 1990s and early 2000s brought serious success; players like Chris Webber, Jason Williams, Mike Bibby and Vlade Divac meant playoff appearances and sellouts. By 2006 — around the time of the Palms’ expansion, in fact — they were attempting to secure a publicly funded arena. It didn’t work.
By 2011, with their financial situation much less publicly secure, the Maloofs looked seriously into moving the Kings to Anaheim. They were prepared to formally present their case and had filed for trademarks on the “Anaheim Royals” name, but it never came to fruition, largely because Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson convinced NBA owners to give the city another shot at figuring out arena financing.
The end result of that was a tentative $391 million deal for a new downtown arena that the family backed out of in April 2012. All the while, the team was struggling, and whatever popularity the Maloofs enjoyed in Sacramento had long disappeared.
By May 2013, they’d sold the Kings for a $535 million valuation, and the team stayed put. Before that, though, they’d attempted to deal with (not coincidentally) a group that valued the franchise for $90 million more and would move it to Seattle. Then, a Seattle arena would’ve gotten built, and an NHL team could’ve followed.
Instead, the NBA’s Board of Governors voted down that deal, and the other one — brokered in part by Johnson, a Sacramento native and All-Star point guard — was approved a day later. The Maloofs were done with Sacramento — but, apparently, not professional sports.
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