While many are ready to dismiss the notion that Howard Schultz has any chance of unwinding the sale of the Sonics to Clay Bennett, the attorney for the Starbucks coffee mogul says there is good reason his client didn't take part in last week's settlement with the Oklahoma City ownership group.
A fraud and breach of contract suit against Bennett by the former Sonics chairman remains a difficult proposition, according to several legal experts, but the issue continues to be pushed forward in federal court by Richard Yarmuth, Schultz's attorney.
"I don't think this case is a long shot,” Yarmuth said Monday. "This case is based on substantial evidence. There is sufficient evidence to prove that these Oklahoma businessmen fraudulently induced the sale of the Sonics to them. I think there will be substantial evidence to demonstrate they never wanted and never intended to own a basketball team in Seattle.”
Schultz's suit is the lone legal weapon left that could bring the former Sonics club back to Seattle. A class-action claim by several Seattle fans still must play out in King County District Court as well, though that suit seeks financial damages instead of challenging the franchise's move.
Since Schultz didn't attempt the difficult procedure of filing for an injunction that would have blocked the team's immediate move to Oklahoma City, his hope now is to push for a trial next spring and attempt to get the team back to Seattle after it plays an initial season at the Ford Center.
Brad Keller, lead attorney for Bennett's ownership group, said Schultz's suit is a "far-fetched legal remedy seeking to salvage a tarnished reputation,” a point shared by many who ponder the motivation of the man who sold the club to out-of-town owners.