"We are concerned" that the partners' legal rights are being ignored, Fitzgerald told U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Christopher Klein.
If he's right, it would make Cook's share dramatically more valuable – and could create a major obstacle to the Maloofs' attempt to sell their controlling interest to hedge fund manager Chris Hansen's group. Hansen plans to move the team to Seattle next season.
Financiers Ron Burkle and Mark Mastrov are assembling a counteroffer to keep the team in Sacramento. While their offer would be presented directly to the NBA, they could get a leg up on Hansen simply by purchasing the 7 percent share at the bankruptcy auction.
If the bankruptcy judge agrees with the trustee's assertion, Burkle and Mastrov could invoke their limited partner rights and buy out the Maloofs.