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"We have 30 million reasons why we have support for a future NBA team," Seattle city attorney Tom Carr said.
In April, the NBA Board of Governors approved Bennett's application to move the team to Oklahoma City, pending the outcome of the trial between the team and the city. The settlement came six days after the trial concluded.
"A really exciting day. We had been gearing up for the 2010 season, and to find out the team's coming two years early is a bonus," Oklahoma City mayor Mick Cornett said.
The settlement doesn't cover a pending lawsuit filed by Schultz, who is seeking to regain control of the team. Schultz claims that Bennett didn't follow through on an agreement to negotiate in good faith for a new arena in Seattle for one full year before seeking relocation options.
"We believe it's baseless, has no merit. We will fight it vigorously," Bennett said of that lawsuit.
Schultz's attorney, Richard Yarmuth said his client's lawsuit will move forward. As part of the settlement, if the PBC is prevented from playing in Oklahoma City during the next two seasons because of Schultz's lawsuit, the city will be required to repay Bennett's group $22.5 million for each season. If the team is required to play in KeyArena for those two seasons, Bennett's group is released from the additional $30 million it would owe the city.
"We're not a party to this settlement and in fact we chose not to participate in it," Yarmuth said.
The trial between the team and city was centered on the lease agreement that called for the Sonics to play at KeyArena through the 2009-10 season. Sonics lead attorney Brad Keller contended that Bennett should simply be able to write a check to satisfy the final two years of the lease. Keller argued that the "specific performance" clause the city rested its case on should not apply in a garden-variety dispute between tenant and landlord.
Bennett and his ownership group previously offered to pay the city $26.5 million in February to buy out the final two years of the lease. They were rebuffed.
Nickels noted that Wednesday's settlement would cover lost rent, tax revenue and pay off the remaining debt on KeyArena.
"I believed all along enforcing our lease would allow us time to come to a better arrangement," Nickels said. "We now have that deal."
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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