Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson tonight at his State of the City address could "reveal the identities of his 'whales' -- the investors he's recruited to bid" for the NBA Kings, with it "widely believed" the investors are Penguins co-Owner Ron Burkle and 24-Hour Fitness co-Founder Mark Mastrov, according to Lillis, Kasler & Bizjak of the SACRAMENTO BEE. Another potential suitor for the team "emerged this week" in Kings limited partner John Kehriotis, who already owns 12% of the team. However, it was not clear if Kehriotis could "pull together all the funding he needs." NBA Commissioner David Stern has said that Sacramento's competing offer "must be submitted to the league" by tomorrow. The city and the Burkle-Mastrov group in the coming weeks "must send the NBA a financing plan for a new arena -- a critical element to convincing the league the Kings should stay." Stern also has said that the NBA BOG will "make a decision in mid-April" on Kings Owner the Maloof family's plan to sell the Kings to a Seattle group led by hedge fund manager Chris Hansen and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. A source yesterday said the Maloofs would accept "backup offers" if the Seattle deal falls through. The source added that the Maloofs "have an exclusive agreement with Hansen prohibiting them from negotiating with anyone else." Kings co-Owner Joe Maloof yesterday confirmed that the family received a $30M "down payment on the team from the Hansen group" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 2/28).
PRIVATE PRACTICE: Sacramento-based KTXL-Fox' Dennis Shanahan reported a privately-funded arena plan involving Kehriotis and a group of investors is "perking up ears inside Sacramento City Hall." Sacramento Vice Mayor Angelique Ashby on Tuesday said, "I don’t think there’s anybody in this city that would object to a plan that doesn’t include any public money, and maximizes an existing resource." Kehriotis' plan would "keep the Kings in Sacramento, and it is not site-specific, which means the existing arena location would be considered" (FOX40.com, 2/27). A SACRAMENTO BEE editorial states the public has "some unconfirmed idea who is involved with the negotiations," but unconfirmed is "not good enough." Sacramento residents "need to know all the wealth that is on the other side of the negotiating table, so they can judge the ability of these partners to pay a share of costs." Residents "shouldn't have to wait" until tonight to "find out for certain who has a stake in this deal." A lack of transparency has "soured Sacramento on the current owners of the Kings." Further "murkiness won't help the team's would-be owners" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 2/28). Meanwhile, in Tacoma, John McGrath wrote Seattle having no NBA team is "preferable to a lousy, hopeless, historically jinxed" team. Changing uniforms and "calling them the SuperSonics is no assurance they won’t be a bust in Seattle." McGrath: "I’d rather the Sonics II evolve from scratch" (Tacoma NEWS TRIBUNE, 2/27).