Penguins Co-Owner Burkle Could Be NBA Kings' Best Chance To Stay In Sacramento
NBA Senior VP/Marketing Communications Mike Bass said that Penguins co-Owner Ron Burkle on Thursday "sat down with" NBA Commissioner David Stern in N.Y. to "express interest in buying" the Kings, according to Lillis, Kasler & Bizjak of the SACRAMENTO BEE. The two-hour meeting was "brokered by" Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson. A source said that the discussion "focused not only on the Kings, but on Burkle's desire to help build an arena at the current site of Downtown Plaza -- and not the downtown railyard." The meeting presents "evidence that the NBA is taking seriously Johnson's effort to present an alternative ownership group to the league that would keep the team in Sacramento." When news "first leaked" two weeks ago that Kings Owner the Maloof family was "negotiating to sell the Kings, Stern made a point of saying he thought Burkle should be given a shot at matching the offer from Seattle." Burkle's endorsement of Downtown Plaza also "marks the first time a precise location has been pushed by any of the investors being recruited by the mayor" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 1/27). Kings investor Bob Cook said that he asked a S.F. sports attorney to contact Oracle Founder & CEO Larry Ellison to "see if he'd consider investing in the team and meet with" Johnson. Cook said he thought Ellison "would be a good possibility" to buy the 65% interest in the Kings that is held by the Maloof family and partner Bob Heinreich. Cook said that he "met Thursday with Johnson to discuss his idea and said Johnson 'absolutely' reacted favorably to it" (MERCURYNEWS.com, 1/26).
WRONG WAY OF DOING THINGS? In Sacramento, Ailene Voisin wrote, "My main gripe with the Maloofs? If their finances forced them to sell their franchise, that's fine." The economy has "chewed up more than a few families and businesses these past few years." But before privately negotiating a sale with hedge fund manager Chris Hansen and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, whose group "fully intends to relocate the team to Seattle, Joe and Gavin should have informed the Sacramento public ... of their plight and their plans." That would have been "an honorable approach." Voisin: "Give Sacramento a chance for a pre-emptive strike" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 1/27).
PICKING UP THE PIECES: In Seattle, Jerry Brewer wrote there is "plenty to be done to ensure the new Sonics have the best chance to reclaim their place in the local sports scene." It starts with "winning back more of their fan base." That process might be "as difficult as Hansen's task of putting together an arena plan and acquiring an NBA team." It certainly "figures to take longer." Former Sonics announcer Kevin Calabro said, "There's no telling how some folks are going to react. It's going to be painstaking, and it won't be overnight. But you're going to have to regain the trust of fans" (SEATTLE TIMES, 1/27).