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Seattle Times reporters Percy Allen, Jim Brunner and Danny O'Neil are filing updates from the courthouse throughout the day.

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June 18, 2008 10:34 AM

City's attorney questions Bennett

Posted by Percy Allen

During redirect from Seattle attorney Paul Lawrence, Sonics owner Clay Bennett said no free agents have refused to sign with the team because the team is moving to Oklahoma City.

Lawrence introduced Exhibit 272, which is an e-mail from February 2007 from Bennett to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. In the e-mail, Bennett wrote: "A contribution from the team nominal and should include development costs and some portion of ongoing operating losses as credit for this piece."

Still, Bennett maintained that his group was committed to pay $100 million toward the $500 million Renton arena project. Lawrence tried to pin him down and reminded Bennett that he did not make state lawmakers or Gov. Christine Gregoire aware of his $100 million contribution.

Bennett conceded the point.

Lawrence introduced two e-mails between Bennett and former Renton Mayor Kathy Koelker in April 2007 in which Bennett backed away from the $500 million arena plans. In one e-mail, Bennett wrote: "I wouldn't get to too far out on this. Lots to discuss but cost overruns is a non-starter."

In the other e-mail, Bennett wrote: "Sorry Kathy, this is just nothing we can consider."

Lawrence said Bennett's e-mails to Koelker were a week after his famous "man possessed" e-mail.

"So the man possessed to keep his team in Seattle shoots down an arena plan because of cost overruns, is that correct?" Lawrence asked.

Lawrence said Bennett's consultants stopped looking for a successor arena six months into a 12-month, good faith best effort period. Bennett agreed.

Lawrence asked if Bennett could have built an arena without public help and Bennett said: "That would not have been viable."

Bennett said Ford Center cost $89 million to build and is four or five years old. Oklahoma City will spend $120 million the next two years to renovate the building. Construction has not started.

Lawrence introduced Exhibit 69, which is an e-mail from former Bennett partner Ed Evans to Bennett and his spokesman, Brent Gooden. In the e-mail, Evans said a conversation with Deputy Mayor Tim Ceis shortly after Bennett bought the Sonics "went amazingly well." He also wrote: "What they [the city] had offered was a starting point."

This evidence was used to contradict Bennett's claim that he had no interest in renovating KeyArena.

Bennett said he had a "good faith best effort" obligation with former Sonics owner Howard Schultz and the NBA.

Lawrence introduced Exhibit 81, which is a letter dated Nov. 1, 2006 from the NBA that confirms the approval of the sale.

Lawrence noted that it's 10:30 a.m. and a good time for a recess. Judge Marsha Pechman agreed.

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Sonics attorneys focus on city's "poisoned well" plan
Bennett says Sonics could lose $60 million if forced to stay in Seattle 2 more years
Sonics CEO: Fans are apathetic
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Documents

2007 "Poisoned Well" document (PDF)
Ward: "Are we doomed to have another lameduck season in Seattle?" (PDF)
Bennett's e-mail to Stern: "You are just one of my favorite people on earth" (PDF)
Clay Bennett and Sonics' court filing (PDF)

Multimedia

Gallery | Seattle SuperSonics: Lasting memories
Gallery | Bittersweet night for Sonics fans
Gallery | Sonics through the years
Gallery | 25th anniversary of Sonics world championship
Gallery | End of a Season, End of a Franchise?
Sports fan "Big Lo" seeks answers from Howard Schultz

Fans weigh in about the state of the Sonics
Cartoon | Schultz jumps into action
Talk about the team in the Sonics forum

Other links

Trial coverage from www.newok.com
ESPN.com | Hope (still) springs in Seattle