Reports: Storm sold to local ownership group

1/7/2008 - WNBA Seattle Storm

SEATTLE -- The WNBA has scheduled a news conference amid
reports that the Seattle Storm has been sold to a local ownership
group and will remain in Seattle.

The Seattle Times and Seattle Post-Intelligencer, both citing
unidentified sources, reported Monday night that team owner Clay
Bennett had sold the WNBA franchise to a local group. Bennett's
group has owned both the Storm and the NBA SuperSonics and has
filed for relocation with the NBA to move the Sonics from Seattle
to Bennett's hometown of Oklahoma City.

Dan Mahoney, spokesman for the organization, would only confirm
Monday night that the announcement scheduled Tuesday was not
related to the Storm's current search for a new head coach.

When Bennett took ownership in July 2006, he said he had no
intention of splitting the franchises. But last September, he made
his first statements that he might be willing to split the two
teams, or look into keeping the Storm in Seattle, even if the
Sonics were to move. At that time he said the Storm would play the
2008 season in Seattle, but made no commitments beyond that.

The Storm would join a handful of WNBA teams that are
independently owned, including Chicago, Connecticut, Los Angeles
and Washington, among others.

The Seattle team has been very successful in its eight years in
existence, highlighted by its 2004 WNBA title, the first
professional sports title in the city since the 1979 SuperSonics
won the NBA championship.

The team has averaged more than 7,000 fans per game each season
and reached the playoffs the last three years. But each of those
seasons ended with first-round playoff losses, and in late
November, head coach and director of player personnel Anne Donovan
abruptly resigned.

Seattle has only four players under contract for the 2008
season, including league MVP Lauren Jackson. All-Star Sue Bird is a
free agent, but has continually expressed her intention of
returning to Seattle if the team stayed.