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Ex-Sonics owner claims commissioner warned him about lawsuit

By Randy Ellis Published: July 26, 2008
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NBA commissioner David Stern warned the former owners of Seattle's NBA team it will be "very expensive” if they continue a lawsuit to get the team back from Oklahoma City, new court documents reveal.

Stern delivered the warning to former owner Howard Schultz in a telephone conversation last month, Schultz said in a sworn statement filed late Thursday in Seattle federal court.

Schultz said the conversation took place June 25, about a week before the city of Seattle and the team's Oklahoma owners announced they had agreed to settle a separate lawsuit over an arena lease, clearing the way for the team to move to Oklahoma City.

Schultz, chief executive officer of Starbucks Coffee Co., said the team's Oklahoma owners tried to make their settlement with the city conditional on Schultz dismissing his fraud lawsuit against them, but he refused.

"I instructed my lawyers to inform the city that we could not support the settlement ... because my primary objective was to secure an NBA team in Seattle, and that objective was not adequately insured by that settlement,” Schultz said.

Schultz said he expressed those same concerns to Stern, but he received an unsympathetic response.

"I told Commissioner Stern that I did not consider the NBA's assurances regarding locating a team in Seattle to be strong enough for me to dismiss ... (the) lawsuit,” Schultz said. "In response to that, Commissioner Stern said that the NBA would offer no further assurances in that regard.”

Schultz said Stern also "implied” that he should reconsider his decision not to dismiss his lawsuit.

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