Tuesday, April 15, 2008

He doesn't sell take-out

It's my coffee, and you'll drink it where I say:
Howard Schultz says he wants the Sonics back.

Nearly two years after selling Seattle's NBA franchise to Oklahoma City investors, the Starbucks mogul has hired a lawyer and is preparing to file a lawsuit against Sonics chairman Clay Bennett to rescind the July 2006 sale.

Attorney Richard Yarmuth confirmed Monday that his Seattle-based law firm, Yarmuth Wilsdon Calfo, is representing Schultz and plans to sue 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."

....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.

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