Speculation was heavy that Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson would announce the big money investors interested in buying the Sacramento Kings at Sacramento's State of the City address tonight on Feb. 28.
The investors, "whales" Johnson called them, would keep the team from moving to Seattle. While Sacramento and Seattle adopted Johnson's nickname for the investors, the whales finally breached tonight.
Johnson introduced 24 Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov and supermarket mogul Ron Burkle as the long-rumored investors who have admitted their interest in the team.
Mastrov will focus on bidding for the team while Burkle will partner with JMA Ventures to build an entertainment and sports complex, including a new arena, at the Downtown Plaza Mall site. The railyards site in northwest section of downtown Sacramento was previously discussed as a possible site for a new arena.
Former King and Basketball Hall of Fame finalist Mitch Richmond was also introduced as a minority investor and the Sacramento Monarchs will bring WNBA basketball back after the Maloof family folded the team in late 2009 if the Kings stay.
Mastrov will submit his group's counteroffer to buy the Kings to the NBA tomorrow morning and released a statement in a press release:
"This is about building a winning franchise for a winning community," Mr. Mastrov explained. "Sacramento has proven time and time again to be a great NBA market. As a longtime resident of Northern California with deep ties to Sacramento, I am thrilled to be a part of an effort to do something special for the region."
Burkle is also bidding on arena operator Anschultz Entertainment Group, which reiterated its $59 million pledge to help build an downtown arena if the Kings stayed. Burkle also released a statement regarding the arena:
"I am excited about the possibilities for the arena and downtown Sacramento as a whole," explained Mr. Burkle. "We have an opportunity to transform downtown into a vibrant hub of economic and cultural activity that will create jobs and generate a positive economic impact for years to come."
Johnson has made clear that he wants Sacramento to become a world class city. Replacing a failing mall with an brand new entertainment and sports complex to help revitalize a depressed downtown area is a step in the right direction.
Johnson also wanted to make sure that Seattle and the nation knew his message:
"Many across the country have counted us out. And I know we are still very much in this game," he said. "I hope Seattle gets a team someday. Let me be perfectly crystal clear, it is not going to be this team. Not our team. no way."
Sacramento has done everything it could to keep the Kings from moving. Now it will be up to the NBA Board of Governors to approve or reject sale of the Kings at their meeting in mid-April. The sale needs a three-quarters vote to be approved.
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