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OKG Newsletter


Those pesky e-mails

By Scott Cooper April 16th, 2008

It's amazing how e-mails can ruin your day. Some friendly e-mail between the owners of the Seattle SuperSonics has not only been the cause for embarrassment, but landed the ownership group into a dogfight with the former Sonics owner.

Last week, The Seattle Times first reported the e-mail exchange between the Sonics owners which indicated talks of moving the team from Seattle to Oklahoma City had been in the works nearly from the time the team was sold. A group of wealthy Oklahoma City businessmen, led by Clay Bennett, formed Professional Basketball Club LLC and purchased the Sonics for $350 million in July 2006. At the time, Bennett made it clear he wanted to keep the team in Seattle and would give the city until October 2007 to come up with a plan to build a new arena. But by April 2007, the owners were already talking about moving.

"Is there any way to move here (Oklahoma City) for next season or are we doomed to have another lame duck season in Seattle?" wrote PBC member Tom Ward to Bennett.

"I am a man possessed! Will do everything we can," was Bennett's response.

The e-mails were revealed in court documents concerning a lawsuit the city of Seattle has filed against the Sonics to keep the team in Seattle through 2010. The revelation has extended the pointing finger Seattle fans have waved at team owners, probably backed with chants of "told you so."

Now, the man who sold the team to PBC wants the team back. A news story out of Seattle reports Howard Schultz, founder of Starbucks, intends to sue PBC to prevent any move out of Seattle, Schultz's attorney said. Shultz claims the new owners failed to make a good-faith effort to keep the team in Seattle as promised at the time of the sale. Shultz does not want any money, just the team.

All of this because of e-mail.

Two years ago, Oklahoma Gazette did a story about how the deal was made to temporarily relocate the New Orleans Hornets to Oklahoma City in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. One of the key elements of the story were e-mails exchanged between Oklahoma City officials, the NBA and the Hornets. What I found curious were only a few of the e-mails came from Bennett, even though he was a key player in bringing the Hornets to town.

I had a chance to talk to Bennett about his lack of e-mails at a Hornets came shortly after the story ran. He told me he doesn't like to use electronic mail that much because you never know where it might end up.

Like a court document that makes it way to a newspaper?  -Scott Cooper

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