SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Billionaire Ron Burkle has taken his interest in the Sacramento Kings all the way to the top.
Burkle met with NBA Commissioner David Stern for two hours at the league’s New York headquarters Thursday, NBA spokesman Tim Frank confirmed Friday. No other details of the meeting were given.
USA Today first reported the meeting Friday.
A person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press earlier this week that Burkle, a Southern California-based businessman and co-owner of the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins, was in “serious talks” with 24 Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov to collaborate on a counteroffer for the Kings. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because of the private nature of the discussions.
The Maloof family already has a signed agreement to sell the Kings to a group that includes hedge-fund manager Chris Hansen and Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer, who intend to move the franchise to Seattle and restore the SuperSonics name. The NBA Board of Governors must approve any sale.
Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson is doing his best to block the move.
Johnson, a former NBA All-Star, will get a chance to present a bid to NBA owners that will keep the team in California’s capital city – with a plan to help finance a new downtown arena. Earlier this week, the mayor introduced 20 investors who have pledged at least $1 million each to be minority investors in the team. Johnson said he hopes to secure the heavy-hitters who will anchor the plan and produce a “fair and competitive offer” by next week.
Burkle expressed interests in buying the Kings two years ago, when Johnson convinced league owners to give his city another shot at financing a new arena when the franchise was exploring a move to Anaheim. Mastrov was among the final bidders for the Golden State Warriors before Joe Lacob and Peter Guber bought the team for an NBA-record $450 million in 2010.
The Maloof family has a pending purchase agreement that will give the Hansen-Ballmer group a 65 percent controlling interests in the franchise, which has a total valuation of $525 million, and move the team to Seattle and restore the SuperSonics name, another person familiar with the decision said earlier this week. That means the group will pay a little more than $340 million.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal is waiting to be approved. Hansen’s group also is hoping to buy out other minority investors.
The main stipulation Johnson is counting on is that the Maloofs are still allowed to receive other offers until the league approves the sale, which the mayor expects to take until at least April, when owners meet in New York. The deadline for teams to file for relocation for next season is March 1, though that has been extended the last two years for the Kings.
NBA owners also can approve the sale at any time once the vetting process is complete.