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Richard Yarmuth, the attorney for Starbucks CEO and former Seattle Supersonics owner Howard Shultz, says that they will be filing a lawsuit against Clay Bennett in hopes of getting the team back. He says that Bennett broke a "stipulation of the contract".
Shultz claims there was an agreement with Bennett that at the time of the contract the new ownership would spend the next 12 months spending their "best efforts" to keep the Sonics in Seattle. The second part was that the team would play out the lease. This is supposedly in a letter that Bennett sent to Shultz pre-contract.
Shultz said in a 2006 KJR (950 AM) interview. "As part of the negotiation, I asked for something that was a deal breaker in negotiation. What I asked for was a side letter to our ownership group and to me ... that said basically he would honor the four-year lease in terms of the 2010 terms, and use his best efforts over the next 12 months ... to get something done."
Now, in the wake of the recent developments - the emails, the attempts to break the lease - Shultz is crying foul. He is expected to file suit to rescind the sale from July 2006.
“The damages that are being sought is to rescind, unwind the transaction," Yarmuth said. "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."
According to Yarmuth, the emails sent between the current owners (some of which date BEFORE the sale) display a breach of that contract.
This comes a day after the oft-questioned NBA Commissioner, David Stern, released a comment on said emails: "I haven't studied them, but my sense of it was that Clay, as the managing partner and the driving force of the group, was operating in good faith under the agreement that had been made with Howard Schultz. His straight and narrow path may not have been shared by all of his partners in their views, but Clay was the one that was making policy for the partnership."
This timing is also potentially helpful, with the NBA “Board of Governors” (owners) meeting Thursday and Friday, with an expected vote on the move coming Friday. With the news that keeps seeping from the walls of this debacle, there are a few ways this could go:
- Owners look at Bennett and say: “This guy is a liar and a cheat; we want nothing to do with him.
- Owners look at Seattle and say: “These guys are causing us more trouble then it is worth; we want nothing to do with them.”
This plot is only beginning to unfold, and I will be here enthralled until the final moving truck pulls up or the final lawsuit is gaveled-out. Whichever comes first.