For now, no cigar for UNM, Maloofs

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The suggestions come in to Sports Speak Up daily.

The A.R.M. Pit.

The Barbecue Pit.

The Money Pit.

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But the most common theory among the Speak Up-sphere for possible naming rights to University Arena links the Maloof family to the Pit.

Granted, it makes some sense. But it’s probably jumping the gun.

Before it’s even loaded.

“Nobody has approached us about that,” Joe Maloof, an Albuquerque native and UNM graduate, told the Journal . “We all grew up in Albuquerque. We love Albuquerque and we’ll always have a fond spot in our hearts for it. But nobody has spoken to us about it.”

UNM athletic director Paul Krebs, who has reportedly been shopping Pit-naming rights around, would not say whether he has contacted the Maloofs.

“We have reached out to multiple companies and individuals,” was all Krebs said in a text to the Journal.

There has been much speculation of late about a possible new name for the Pit – which, let’s remember, is officially called University Arena. And no matter what name replaces that, is anybody really going to stop calling it the Pit?

It’s probably a tough sell, and Krebs has been talking about naming rights since 2008.

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But the subject heated up again within the last two weeks, when Krebs announced a price increase for men’s basketball season tickets and also spoke during an Anderson School breakfast about selling naming rights to the arena.

Since then, a number of Lobo fans have tossed the Maloof name around as a Pit possibility. With good reason. They have a storied history with Albuquerque and UNM, and have recently come into beaucoup bucks.

The Maloofs reportedly sold the Sacramento Kings for an NBA-record $534 million to Tibco Software Inc. founder Vivek Ranadive, ending the 14-year ownership by the family. But that figure is likely even higher.

The sale came after the NBA turned down a proposed sale to a group in Seattle for $625 million. However, the Seattle group, which was trying to get the NBA back after losing the SuperSonics to Oklahoma City, had to pony up a non-refundable $30 million deposit to the Kings in an attempt to purchase the franchise.

Add to that the Kings’ share of NBA revenue money, which should be in the neighborhood of $7-$8 million, and the total sale appears to be in excess of $570 million.

Joe Maloof confirmed the sale “was worth more” than the reported $534 million, but he wouldn’t say how much more, or confirm the $570 million-plus figure.

The Maloofs’ share of the team is reportedly 65 percent. Based on $570 million, that would make the Maloofs’ cut around $370 million.

Krebs, in all likelihood, probably has added up those figures as well. But just because of the family’s New Mexico history, it’s probably best not to assume there is any major interest by either party.

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Ties may not bind

The Maloofs’ mother, Colleen Maloof, is a former UNM regent. The school’s athletic administration building is named after her.

The late George Maloof, patriarch of the family fortune, was a longtime prominent Albuquerque businessman, chairman of the state’s racing commission and a big UNM booster.

Joe was a three-year letterman for the Lobo football team, while sister Adrienne lettered in tennis at UNM.

All five kids were raised in Albuquerque and went to local high schools. The family owned a bank, a number of hotels, a beverage and beer distributorship and a liquor distributorship.

But while Joe Maloof said he still thinks fondly of the city, the Maloofs have sold most of their business interests in the state.

Could the Kings’ sale change that? And if so, would that bring them into the Pit picture?

Not for now, at least.

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“That’s possible down the road,” Joe Maloof said of future business ventures in New Mexico. “But we are focusing on other business opportunities right now.”

Gavin Maloof, a former Kings co-owner with Joe, said this: “It’s our hometown. We still have a lot of friends there. But we’re investing in a lot of projects right now. We’ve got a brand-new line of cigars (Maloof Brothers) and our Zing Red Velvet vodka is taking off.”

Still, Joe added, “you never know what the future holds, but right now I just don’t know if we would be interested (in Pit naming rights) with the businesses we’re working on. It’s just not something that’s even been discussed.”

Which, for now, should create a Pit stop of the speculation with the Maloofs and the famous arena.

But what the heck, A.R.M. Pit, Barbecue Pit and Money Pit are pretty doggone amusing – and I’m sure there are plenty more suggestions to come.

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