KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Kansas City Kings of the National Basketball Association were sold Wednesday to a group of investors from Sacramento, Calif., for $10.5 million, representing cash and assumption of the club's financial obligations.
Joseph Benvenuti becomes a 50 percent owner of the Kings and the other half will be owned by C.C.M. & L., a general partnership made up of other investors Stephen H. Cippa, Robert A. Cook, Frank McCormick and Frank and Gregg Lukenbill.
Gregg Lukenbill, acting as a spokesman for the new owners, said his group will honor the remaining two years of the Kings' lease with Kemper Arena. There is a five-year option at the conclusion of the lease but whether or not the Kings stay in Kansas City beyond that will depend on the club's performance both on and off the court over these next two seasons.
'We're looking for an improved record,' Lukenbill said, 'we're looking for improved attendance and an improvement financially. It's a business investment for us.'
Lukenbill said his group became interested in owning an NBA franchise in March when a new labor agreement was negotiated between the league and the players association. He said his group tried unsuccessfully to purchase the Indiana Pacers earlier this year before settling on the Kings.
'We're here because of the NBA collective bargaining agreement,' Lukenbill said. 'Basketball's got only one way to go at this point ... and that's straight up.'
The Kings, who had been operating under a six-man ownership group headed by Leon Karosen, posted a 45-37 record last season for a tie for second place in the Midwest Division but failed to qualify for the playoffs. The Kings averaged 8,301 fans per game to rank 17th in the 23-team league in attendance.
'These people are making it possible for this team to remain in Kansas City,' Karosen said. 'It's just that simple. I want to emphasize that we are not selling the team with the idea that it be moved. They have assured us that their goal is to provide a quality NBA operation in Kansas City with continued improvement on the playing floor as their primary goal.'
The sale is conditional upon the approval of the NBA's Board of Governors at its annual meeting June 21 in New York.