SEATTLE (AP) -The new owner of the Seattle SuperSonics wants to move the team to Oklahoma City and informed the NBA of his intentions Friday.
Clay Bennett had set a Wednesday deadline for having a plan to replace KeyArena, which he says is outdated. He and the city are in a dispute about the arena lease.
He has until March 1 to file for relocation with the NBA if he wants the team to play the 2008-09 season anywhere besides Seattle. The Sonics are city's oldest major professional sports franchise.
Bennett briefly backed off his deadline, not wanting to distract from the start of the season. He watched Thursday night's home opener against Phoenix from his suite, spending most of the second half chatting with Hall of Famer Bill Russell while fans chanted ``Save our Sonics!'' during the game.
``Today we notified commissioner (David) Stern that we intend to relocate the Sonics to Oklahoma City if we succeed in the pending litigation with the city, or are able to negotiate an early lease termination, or at the end of the lease term,'' Bennett said in a statement.
Bennett became owner just more than a year ago and also owns the WNBA's Seattle Storm. He bought the Sonics from a local group headed by Starbucks Coffee chairman Howard Schultz for $350 million and has said the club is not for sale. Schultz, also unhappy with KeyArena, and his group paid $200 million for the team in 2001.
Bennett is trying to void the final two years of the lease. The city wants to hold the Sonics to the agreement, which calls for the team to play at KeyArena through the 2009-10 season.
Bennett said the team lost $17 million last year because of the lease. The Sonics had sought arbitration to decide the matter, but this week a federal judge blocked the team from seeking an escape through arbitration. That kept alive the city's attempts to gain a court order forcing the Sonics to play in Seattle.
Bennett championed a proposal this year for a new arena in the suburb of Renton that called for about $300 million in public money. The plan failed to get backing in the state Legislature.
``We now understand and respect that there is very limited public support for such a public investment,'' Bennett said.
Bennett has long said he had no intention of splitting the Sonics and Storm, but appeared to hedge on that Friday. He said plans are not set for the WNBA team, which will play the 2008 season in Seattle.
A few hours before Bennett's announcement, a group of local investors offered to buy the Sonics in an effort to keep the Sonics from moving.
The group is headed by Dennis Daugs, a private wealth manager and managing director of Lakeside Capital Management LLC. The group said it sent Bennett a formal letter of interest. The statement did not identify others in the group or the amount the group was prepared to bid.
``We have a genuine appreciation of the fan base,'' said Daugs, a former minority owner of the SuperSonics. ``We respect the many loyal fans and we want to build a populist movement to keep the teams here. We believe there is strong local support for the Sonics and Storm.''

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