New Potential Buyers Emerge For NBA Kings; Sacramento Group Aims To Avoid Move
Sacramento's efforts to keep the NBA Kings “took a dramatic turn Saturday when a new group, aligned with the owner of Downtown Plaza, proposed to buy the team and build a $400 million arena on the shopping center site,” according to a front-page piece by Kasler, Lillis & Bizjak of the SACRAMENTO BEE. A source said that the group was “lining up deep-pocket investors to work with the mall's new owner, JMA Ventures, and present a credible alternative to the Maloof family's efforts" to sell the Kings to Seattle hedge-fund manager Chris Hansen and a group planning to move the team to Seattle. JMA spokesperson Jeff Nead confirmed that the mall owner is “interested in the arena project -- and has been contacted by more than one investor group considering a bid for the Kings.” He declined to identify any of the investors. The Maloof family on Saturday declined to comment on the situation. Two “key names have emerged as possible Sacramento bidders for the Kings.” Penguins co-Owner Ron Burkle, who “tried to buy the team in 2011, was identified as a possible suitor last week" by Mayor Kevin Johnson and NBA Commissioner David Stern. 24-Hour Fitness co-Founder Mark Mastrov, who was a “runner-up in the bidding” for the Warriors in ’10, on Friday “declared he's assembled a group eyeing a bid.” Johnson has “pledged to present the NBA with a viable alternative to Hansen -- a consortium of owners who would buy out the Maloofs, keep the team in Sacramento and commit to a new arena.” Mastrov said that he “likes the arena plan the city and the NBA negotiated with the Maloofs last spring.” The Maloofs “abandoned that project.” Stern last week said that he “favored giving a Sacramento bidder -- namely Burkle -- a chance to match Seattle's offer” (SACRAMENTO BEE, 1/13).
DOLLARS & CENTS: In Seattle, Bob Condotta cited Sacramento officials as saying that “one factor on their side is that local owners would not have to pay a relocation fee -- which would likely be at least $30 million -- or pay off a $77 million outstanding loan the Maloofs have with the city.” That would allow a local group “to pay less than the $500 million to $525 million that reports have said Hansen's group -- which also includes Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer -- has offered” (SEATTLE TIMES, 1/13). USA TODAY’s Sam Amick noted Johnson has “spent recent weeks rounding up local and outside investors who he is confident could come with a competitive offer.” Johnson said, "I think from my standpoint, we're thinking about $450 (million) -- $425 to $450 (million). There's a lot of due diligence that has to take place on both sides. But everybody we're talking to, who has some interest, they know the number is going to be pretty darn high. It's going to be over $400 (million) for sure. The good thing is that there's not a shortage of people who are interested" (USATODAY.com, 1/12). In Sacramento, Marcos Breton wrote under the header, “Mayor Kevin Johnson In His Element With Kings Fight.” No one in Sacramento besides Johnson “has the ability to befriend the filthy rich and talk them into committing their millions for his interests.” Johnson can “face off [with] the Maloofs, who have wronged Sacramento for years as horrible owners, and Sacramentans will be with their mayor.” If not for Johnson, the Kings “would have been gone already,” but he was “born for this fight” (SACRAMENTO BEE, 1/13).
POSTURING FOR POSITION: The BEE’s Kasler, Lillis & Bizjak in a separate front-page piece reported Sleep Train Founder & CEO Dale Carlsen, whose company is the naming sponsor of the Kings' arena, also has been “expressing interest in playing some role.” Carlsen said that he has “talked with other potential investors as well as Johnson.” He said, "My hope is we're given an opportunity as a community to put our offer in. There's several groups that are trying to put that together" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 1/12). In Boston, Gary Washburn noted the potential purchase of the Kings by a Seattle ownership group “is a surprise only in the timing.” The reality is the NBA “steered the Kings toward this fate.” The Maloofs “wanted to move the Kings to Anaheim and play at the Honda Center.” The NBA “wanted no part of a third team in Southern California, and commissioner David Stern did not want to penalize the city of Sacramento.” It was an opportunity for Stern “to right a wrong executed five years ago” (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/13).
SPEAKING FROM EXPERIENCE: In Charlotte, Rick Bonnell wrote, “If you were around Charlotte when the Hornets left for New Orleans, then these recent events involving the Sacramento Kings are an exercise in déjà vu.” The only “real difference between the Hornets’ departure and what’s happening with the Kings is the NBA immediately investigated putting another expansion team in Charlotte.” Bonnell: “Frankly, I don’t know that Sacramento, the capital of California, will ever get another major-league team. ... The biggest thing I learned while covering the Hornets’ departure was this: Owners love to say these teams belong to the town and the fans." That stance is "effective marketing because you want these teams to be perceived as public resources.” But they are “private property, and when there’s someplace else these teams can make more money, they’ll move” (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 1/13).