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The Kings are dead -

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The Kings are dead

The World Today - Thursday, 12 June , 2008 12:36:35

Reporter: David Mark

EMMA ALBERICI: One of the foundation members and glamour teams of the National Basketball League,
the Sydney Kings, has been officially pronounced dead this morning.

The Kings' licence has been terminated by the NBL after their owner, Tim Johnston, failed to pay
outstanding wages owed to the team's players by last night's deadline

The Kings won three consecutive championships between 2003 and 2005. Their rapid demise since then
comes despite an 11th hour bid by the team's former owner to save them.

David Mark reports.

DAVID MARK: It wasn't that long ago that the Sydney Kings were the rulers of their domain.

The team which had its roots in the National Basketball League's inaugural 1977 season, won three
championships in a row from 2003 and played in five of the last six grand finals.

But when the team's players weren't paid, the league issued a default notice to the club's owners -
the fuel-additive company Firepower - and this morning the Kings' licence was officially

The NBL's chief executive officer Chuck Harmison read the death notice.

CHUCK HARMISON: Last night at five o'clock the default notice fell due. The breach had not been
rectified, therefore the NBL participants had no choice other than to initiate termination
proceedings against Dazalina (phonetic) Proprietary Limited which is the company that owns the
license to operate the Sydney Kings in this market.

At this stage there will be no Sydney Kings in the National Basketball League competition in 2008
and 2009.

DAVID MARK: It's been a rapid fall from grace.

Mike Wrublewski is the club's former chairman.

MIKE WRUBLEWSKI: Well the days were sensational. In the early '90s we had, you know, people, 10,500
people at the Entertainment Centre, the place was choc-a-block full. Everyone was excited. The
media was behind us. We had the corporate world supporting us. We were the sport of the future.

We just got a little bit cocky and we just lost control of where we were going and made some bad
decisions into the future, and we're paying for those decisions today.

DAVID MARK: Chuck Harmison acknowledges that one of those bad decisions was not examining the
Firepower's books when its owner, Tim Johnston, took over the licence of the Kings last year.

CHUCK HARMINSON: We need to do better due diligence, vet our potential owners more strictly. I can
take some solace in as much as, I must be careful here what I say, but you know he is gotten other
people much smarter than the NBL involved in Firepower, and we need to be much more careful who we
give a licence to and make sure that they can operate our teams successfully and sustain them for a
long time.

DAVID MARK: The NBL season is due to begin in September with the 12 remaining teams, but Chuck
Harmison says there is still a faint chance of a last-minute rescue package for the Kings.

CHUCK HARMISON: I will not close the door until we've exhausted every option, but at this stage
no-one has come forward with a viable proposition to operate the Kings for 08/09.

DAVID MARK: He's giving potential suitors another 10 days to come forward.

CHUCK HARMISON: We are fielding any proposals that come forward. We're not actively going out there
and seeking, people know that the Kings are in strife and they can contact me.

I've had a number of contacts from not only Sydney but from overseas. People are interested in the
Kings' licence. I say to them, I need a business plan, I need detail on your financial backing
because the last thing we want to do is transfer this licence to someone and have it end up in the
same situation in six or 12 months' time. We are simply not going to do that.

DAVID MARK: One person who was keen to take on the Kings was Mike Wrublewski, but he wasn't
prepared to take on the team's debts, while his demand that the team sit out the coming season was
rejected by the league.

MIKE WRUBLEWSKI: Truthfully, within two months or a month and a half we're looking at the Olympics
starting, a month after that the actual league is starting. Right now the club was in incredible
financial difficulty.

They don't have one sponsor, one season ticket-holder signed. It's in absolute chaos. Only a madman
would try and do that within two months, it's just not physically possible. All I would do is throw
millions of dollars at it and we'd be no better off!

DAVID MARK: So you argue that this needn't have happened.

MIKE WRUBLEWSKI: Absolutely needn't have happened. My proposal was very clear to them. So, you
know, the Kings needn't have died. We might not have played this season but we needn't have died. I
think it's a very sad day.

I think the NBL and I think the product of basketball is excellent. We're just doing some silly
things around it, that's all.

EMMA ALBERICI: The former chairman of the now defunct Sydney Kings basketball team, Mike
Wrublewski, ending David Mark's report.