Clay Bennett Rumors

The Thunder posted an average local television rating of 6.69 this season, second-best in the NBA behind the Golden State Warriors. They also have sold out 355 consecutive home games, which is the third-longest active run in the NBA. The team is controlled by Clay Bennett, whose group bought the club — then the Seattle SuperSonics — in 2006 for about $325 million. The team relocated to Oklahoma City for the 2008-2009 season.
This illustrates another layer of complication in a team sale process: Is it the commissioner or the seller who holds the cards? Some knowing parties have speculated that Ellison miscalculated and fostered more of a connection with Stern than with Cohan. While, say, Clay Bennett might have benefited from a tight relationship with Stern in his pursuit of the then-Sonics (now the Oklahoma City Thunder), every one of these situations is different. Stern, though famously powerful, saw himself as more of a facilitator in this and other proceedings. “I knew that Sal was representing the product, and I knew Joe, and I knew Larry (Ellison) and so I was in touch with them,” Stern said in a phone interview. “I don’t wanna get any further than that.” Stern added his assessment: “Larry could’ve made the purchase, but he didn’t. He skipped a beat and Joe moves right in and took the team away from him.”
Lacob had laid the groundwork with Cohan, though, having met with the notoriously shy absentee owner at AT&T Park years earlier. At the time, Cohan wasn’t selling, but Lacob wanted to make an impression. “So he liked me maybe,” says Lacob, who then muses, “I think that was part of it was that he really didn’t want Larry to get the team, perhaps.” Then Lacob picks up the sale story. “‘OK, what’s the price?’ I asked. He said, ‘$440 million and there will be no deductions for anything you find during the due-diligence process. That’s the price, flat out, has to be it. Second, $20 million, non-refundable under any circumstances.’ Now, that is a risk.” “And so I gave him an answer, instantaneously, and I don’t know where it came from, but it just came out of me: ‘I won’t do that.’ And he said, ‘OK.’ And I heard a silence at the other end of the line.”