The NBA yesterday said that Penguins co-Owner Ron Burkle is no longer part of a group trying to buy the Kings and keep the team in Sacramento because his ownership stake in a company that represents NBA players would violate league rules. Burkle became an investor in film studio Relativity Media in '11. Relativity COO Happy Walters is an NBA player agent who represents about a dozen players and oversees the Relativity Sports division. In February, prominent NBA player agent Dan Fegan joined Relativity Sports as President of Basketball and the company now represents more than 50 NBA players. The NBA, like other leagues, has long had a prohibition against team owners holding interests in firms which represent players. Attempts to reach Burkle for comment were unsuccessful (Liz Mullen, Staff Writer). In Sacramento, Bizjak, Lillis & Kasler in a front-page piece report Burkle was "going to take the lead in developing" a proposed $448M arena and "would have held a small ownership stake in the team." Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson "insisted that Burkle's new role would not deflate the effort to keep the Kings from going to Seattle." Johnson added that other investors "would pick up the financial slack." With Burkle "taking a back seat," Johnson said Warriors Vice Chair Vivek Ranadivé and 24 Hour Fitness co-Founder Mark Mastrov "are going to be the lead investors" on the team and arena. A source said that Qualcomm Owner the Jacobs family would "take on a more significant role in the ownership group." Even with a smaller role, Burkle's participation "in the development around the proposed arena is seen as vital." City officials said that the development is "key to making the whole project pencil out for investors" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 4/9).
BLOW TO SACRAMENTO'S BID: CSNBayArea.com's Ray Ratto said in light of the Burkle news, it is “too hard to look at Sacramento as seriously involved here given the fact that their investor line-up changes like week after week after week.” Ratto noted Seattle's bid still has Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who is "worth more by himself than the entire NBA." Ratto: "That means he’s got throw weight that everybody else in that room on April 18th is going to pay attention to” (“Chronicle Live,” Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, 4/8).