The owners of Oklahoma City's NBA basketball team accused former Seattle owner Howard Schultz of insincerity in court documents filed Monday. "Schultz insists he was determined to keep the team in Seattle,” attorneys for the team's Oklahoma owners said. "To the contrary, Schultz is a shrewd businessman who was in it for the money.” Schultz knew he could command a higher price if the team could be moved, the new owners said. "That is why in marketing the team for sale, he and his financial advisors (Goldman Sachs) touted the franchise's "portability,” i.e., the fact that it could be relocated to a different market,” the Oklahoma owners said. A group of former owners headed by Schultz, chief executive officer of Starbucks Coffee Co., is suing the current owners in Seattle federal court. Former owners claim they were duped into selling the franchise in 2006 by Oklahoma buyers who fraudulently represented they would use their best efforts to keep the team in Seattle. Schultz isn't seeking ownership of the team back and doesn't want to give back the $350 million selling price. Instead, he wants the judge to establish a constructive trust to search for an "honest buyer” who will keep the team in the Seattle area. His attorneys have asked the judge to split the trial into two parts — the first to determine liability and the second to deal with remedy. The team's Oklahoma owners said Monday they oppose splitting the trial because it would lengthen the lawsuit. "There is an overwhelming need for certainty, now,” attorneys for the Oklahoma owners said. "It is time to resolve, not delay, this ill-conceived and frankly desperate effort to undo what everyone else has accepted: the team has moved to Oklahoma City.” "The rich and powerful people behind this lawsuit sometimes forget that businesses — even professional basketball teams — are made up of people,” the Oklahoma owners said. "Players, front office staff, spouses and children are in the process of starting their lives in Oklahoma City. They are buying houses, picking schools, joining churches and starting life in a new community.” The team's owners said voiding the sale is unworkable because it would require undoing numerous complex contracts. "It is too late to unscramble the eggs,” they said. They also argued splitting the case into two trials could put the court in the position of having to run an NBA team for months — making decisions like who to draft in 2009, who to trade and who to cut, deciding ticket prices and negotiating multimillion dollar player contracts and sponsorship renewals. "It is time to resolve Schultz's claim, once and for all, sooner not later,” the Oklahoma owners concluded.
Howard Schultz is suing the current owners of the NBA team in Seattle federal court. Associated press