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Friday, June 20, 2008

Team Bennett Reveals City’s “Machieavellian” Plot

posted by on June 20 at 12:59 PM

I switched my keyboard to “CAPS LOCK” mode at one point during this morning’s Sonics trial because what was going down seemed like a pretty big deal: Judge Marsha Pechman had just overruled the city’s desperate series of objections to Team Bennett’s interrogation of former Sonics player and later CEO, Wally Walker.

The city’s lead attorney, Paul Lawrence, was trying in vain to stop a line damning questioning by Bennett’s attack dog, attorney Paul Taylor, by arguing that Team Bennett had provided no proof that Walker was a consultant for the city while simultaneously working with a group of local bigwigs (former Sen. Slade Gorton, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, former Safeco CEO and GOP muckety-muck Mike McGavick, and local wireless mogul and billionaire John Stanton) to sabotage Bennett’s ownership and buy the team back.

The judge repeatedly overruled the city’s objections because Taylor had a letter, signed by Walker, that identified Walker as a consultant for the city as early as September 2007. From my notes:

Inexplicably, Walker kept denying the implication of the signed letter.

Team Bennett’s point was to show that even as Walker was working as a consultant for the city on the Sonics, he was working with the group of bigwigs on a plan to force Bennett to stay in KeyArena by suing, and leveraging that (expensive) burden to make Bennett sell. Hmmmm… that’s kinda what’s happening right now.

During this morning’s questioning, Team Bennett hauled out incriminating emails and a plan dubbed the “poisoned well” strategy by the memo’s author, Mike McGavick. The secret plan explained: “For the best likely outcome … the Oklahomans have to be willing to sell.”

Taylor went on to show Walker’s assignment in the plot—according to an email—was to “drive a wedge between the NBA and the Sonics.”

And then, with the city’s objections overruled, Team Bennett ruffian Paul Taylor went forward with the antagonistic questioning, presenting an email from Walker to Stanton, one of the potential buyers, that Walker sent after meeting with mayor Greg Nickels’s staff. The email said the city was in “total agreement” with the strategy to make Bennett’s situation “too litigious and too expensive.”

The larger point of Team Bennett’s argument, identifying Walker as the link between the city and this “Machiavellian” plot, was to show that the city’s lawsuit is disingenuous and should be tossed. (“Machiavellian” wasn’t Team Bennett’s term, but actually turned up in an email from Mike McGavick to Walker, gleefully describing their efforts: “Machiavellian stuff that might work or at least be fun.”

In cross-examination, the city amplified Walker’s earlier defensive responses to Taylor: Although the letter he signed says he was a consultant, he didn’t think he was. Walker insisted his only job for the city was helping them work on a KeyArena solution for the Sonics that had nothing to do with any plot to wrest ownership away from Bennett.

p.s. One thing I forgot to include in yesterday’s Sherman Alexie coverage. He says he likes Oklahoma City a lot. “It’s the first place I ever kissed a Native American girl,” he said.

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Who. Gives. A. Shit?

Posted by A Non Imus | June 20, 2008 1:23 PM

I just gave a shit and hopefully, the little corny bits will land on your head.

Posted by cw | June 20, 2008 1:28 PM


Now there's a phrase that's nuked the fridge.

Posted by laterite | June 20, 2008 1:29 PM

you'd think that the city would know: wally walker = lose.

sonics observers certainly do. if schultz had fired wally & hired a competent GM, as was advised by fans the moment he bought the team from the ackerlys, he would have made money!

Posted by max solomon | June 20, 2008 1:29 PM

The only thing I don't understand about moving the Mariners to Oklahoma is how you'd keep the name, Oklahoma being landlocked, and all.

Posted by NapoleonXIV | June 20, 2008 1:41 PM

In related news, 95 percent of Seattle has already moved on and is wondering when the Sonics will get the hint and leave already.

Posted by Will in Seattle | June 20, 2008 1:43 PM

"In related news, 95 percent of Slog has already moved on and is wondering when Will in Seattle will get the hint and leave already."

Posted by okay. | June 20, 2008 1:49 PM

This city is a cartoon. Bennett is crushing them like Hulk. I predict the verdict will be in favor of the city, but the damages will be one dollar, and the Sonics will play in OK just like we've known all along for two years now.

Posted by Fnarf | June 20, 2008 1:50 PM

If Alexie likes the Sonics, I like the Sonics. If you punks could BLOG like he can write, we wouldn't have to read about It's Mark Mitchell's teenaged masturbation sessions.

Posted by six shooter | June 20, 2008 2:05 PM

If it's so bad for the city to try to make it difficult on Clay to move the team, when will it be bad that Clay got rid of all the good players so the team would suck and so that no one would come to the games?

Sure the city was tying to make it touch on Clay - they don't want to see the team go.

My question is when does Clay get judged for his handling of the team and the situation?

Posted by Gary | June 20, 2008 2:06 PM

that's 'tough on Clay.'

Posted by Gary | June 20, 2008 2:08 PM

@9 - actually, most of the writing in those is a lot more readable, FWIW.

Posted by Will in Seattle | June 20, 2008 2:17 PM

All very interesting (or not) but... I'd really like the take of someone who understands the law and the legal issues under consideration. My hope and understanding is that all of the soap opera stuff will prove largely irrelevant in the judges ruling re specific performance and the lease.

Posted by umvue | June 20, 2008 2:19 PM

Thank you for these reports, Josh.

Posted by Sam M. | June 20, 2008 2:34 PM

Is there a professional sports team you enjoy watching, Will in Seattle @12?

Posted by six shooter | June 20, 2008 2:39 PM

@13, check out KJR's interview with ESPN lawyer guy Roger Cossack from yesterday. It's on their site somewhere. Shouldn't be hard to find.

The gist of it is that he doesn't see a verdict that would necessarily keep the team here for any length of time and that these things usually come down to a settlement amount. He says there's no way the judge will rule that the Sonics have to play all 82 home games here.

Today's Walker testimony, along with the mayor's contradictions on Monday and Alexie's bizarre ramblings have showed me that Seattle did NOT do their homework and has screwed the pooch.

Posted by reval5 | June 20, 2008 2:42 PM

Seattle doesn't have to win this case. Seattle only has to cost Bennett money.

At some dollar amount, Bennett will agree to sell the team. When Bennett sells the team, you and I will build them a new statium. The Sonics will win a lot of games for a couple years.

This is the Seattle Way.

Posted by six shooter | June 20, 2008 2:46 PM

ESPN lawyer guy simply doesn't know what Marsha Pechman's capable of.

Posted by NapoleonXIV | June 20, 2008 3:08 PM

I got a stadium for them ... it's called Under The Viaduct.

@15 - yeah, I like NHL, CFL, MLS, and baseball.


Oh, and curling's kind of hot too, but I don't watch it too often.

Posted by Will in Seattle | June 20, 2008 3:56 PM

Will's canadian and wouldn't know a real sport if it sat in his lap.

The CFL? Really? What is this, a Seinfeld episode?

Posted by joykiller | June 20, 2008 4:57 PM

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