The owners of the Seattle SuperSonics will pay a $45 million out-of-court settlement in the lawsuit over the NBA team's move to Oklahoma.
Managing owner Clay Bennett, at a press conference Wednesday evening at Skirvin Hotel, said the sum would be substantial for his group.
"It's not pocket change. But it will come from the ownership group," he said.
The full roster of the Sonics ownership remains unknown; however, it does include:
" Bennett, chairman of Dorchester Capital;
" Aubrey McClendon, chairman and CEO, Chesapeake Energy Corporation;
" G. Jeffrey Records, chairman of the Board and CEO, MidFirst Bank;
" Tom L. Ward, chairman and CEO, Sandridge Energy Inc.; and
" G. Edward Evans, chairman, Syniverse Holding Inc.
The settlement is between the Professional Basketball Club LLC (PBC) and the city of Seattle, which sued over the Sonics' breaking the Key Arena lease agreement in order to move to OKC, according to the memorandum of understanding. The memo states that the money is being paid by the owners "to avoid extended controversy and the expense of litigation and unfavorable publicity and injury to PBC's business reputation."
Bennett said the high dollar amount of the settlement gave the owners pause before committing, rechecking whether Oklahoma City could sustain the big-league team even with the added weight of the expense of the settlement.
"We've been pretty confident of that the whole time, but we took one more look at that before we decided to kick in another $45 million," Bennett said. "The response to the Hornets on a temporary basis was extraordinary. What we've seen come out of this process, the support we've seen, talking to corporate leadership about how what their investment could quite likely be "¦ this is a very important step the corporate leadership very much values."
Bennett said that fans will face higher ticket prices than those charged for the Hornets games.
"They are going to be higher," he said. "We will still have affordable seats. We are going to commit to making sure there is affordable seating throughout the bowl. We are going to focus very hard that everyone in this city and state who wants to go to a game can go to a game. A lot of that is going to be on the backs of corporate underwriting."
One lawsuit remains pending against the move by another team owner, Starbucks chairman Howard Schultz. The settlement with the city contains contingency agreements that would void part or all of the $45 million, should Schultz's lawsuit prevail against the Sonics' move. Bennett called Schultz's lawsuit "without merit." "Ben Fenwick