In which the former owner of Seattle’s doomed NBA franchise either a) saves the day or b) exercises some very expensive P.R. damage control. From the Seattle Times’ Percy Allan :
Attorney Richard Yarmuth confirmed Monday that his Seattle-based law firm, Yarmuth Wilsdon Calfo, is representing Schultz and plans to sue Clay Bennett’s Professional Basketball Club in the next two weeks.
“The damages that are being sought is to rescind, unwind the transaction,” Yarmuth said a day after the team played what could have been its final home game in Seattle.
“It’s not money damage. It’s to have the team returned. The theory of the suit is that when the team was sold, the Basketball Club of Seattle, our team here, relied on promises made by Clay Bennett and his ownership that they desired to keep the team in Seattle and intended to make a good-faith effort to accomplish that.”
When Bennett purchased the Sonics and its sister franchise in the WNBA, the Storm, for $350 million, he agreed to a stipulation that he would make a good-faith effort to keep both teams in Seattle. He has since sold the Storm to four Seattle women who will keep the team here.
E-mails among the Oklahoma City owners, made public last week, paint a different picture of their intentions. In preparation for a June 16 trial in Seattle’s lawsuit, which seeks to hold the owners to the remaining two years of the team’s KeyArena lease, lawyers for the city obtained several e-mails in which owners expressed an intent to move to Oklahoma City shortly after the sale.
On Aug. 2, 2006, two weeks after the sale, team co-owners Tom Ward and Aubrey McClendon e-mailed about moving the Sonics to Oklahoma City as soon as possible. The communication was after one of the original Oklahoma partners had dropped out of the ownership group.
“I don’t think that you and I really want to own a team there [Seattle] either but we are better partners,” Ward wrote.
On April 17 last year, Ward wrote McClendon and Bennett: “Is there any way to move here [Oklahoma City] for next season or are we doomed to have another lame duck season in Seattle?”
The exchanges detail a breach of contract, Yarmuth said. He also cites McClendon’s comments last August to the (Oklahoma) Business Journal in which the billionaire founder and chief executive of Chesapeake Energy said: “We didn’t buy the team to keep it in Seattle; we hoped to come here [Oklahoma City].”
“The issue is did the Oklahoma group fraudulently induce the Seattle owners, Howard Schultz and the other owners, to sell the team on a misrepresentation of their intentions at the time,” Yarmuth said.