Have fans of the Sacramento Kings been thrown a lifeline? One day after the team closed its regular season at home in front of a teary crowd, Kevin Johnson, the Mayor of Sacramento, has raised a possible alternative to the franchise relocating to Anaheim.
Johnson wrote on Twitter that billionaire Ron Burkle, who is a co-owner of the NHL's Pittsburgh Penguins, is "very interested in buying the Kings and keeping them in Sacramento." Johnson is currently in New York City to make a presentation to the NBA's Board of Governors as are the Maloof brothers, the team's current ownership group.
A firm representing Burkle issued a press release on Thursday, via SacTown Royalty, stating his intentions.
"The Maloofs have been strong owners and a positive part of the Sacramento community for years, but it is important that Kings fans and residents of the Sacramento region know that the Burkle Group is ready to commit the resources and expertise necessary to keep the NBA in Sacramento. Our group believes Sacramento is an important NBA market that can thrive with new ideas, new resources and an absolute commitment to delivering the best on and off-court experiences for fans.
"This group, led by Pittsburgh Penguins owner Ron Burkle, is prepared to assist the Mayor by bringing significant resources and the best possible expertise in professional sports, facilities development and financing to bear in the effort to keep Sacramento as an NBA city."Will Burkle be able to swoop in like Superman to save the day? That's unclear. One key issue: How viable are the Maloof brothers? In recent years, they've sold off their other businesses, taken a huge hit in their Las Vegas casinos, laid off Kings employees, taken out a big loan from the NBA and a huge part of their plan to relocate to Anaheim was centered around up-front money they would receive in the deal as well as long-term television revenue.
The Maloofs need the NBA's Boad of Governors to approve their relocation plan to Anaheim. That group is also capable of levying a major relocation fee. There has been some pushback around the league about the Kings relocating to Anaheim because it would place three NBA franchises in Southern California.
SI.com reports that Burkle's interest isn't short-lived but that the Maloofs are reluctant to part with the Kings.
Burkle been working on this for weeks. When KJ told Stern he had a possible buyer, the commish made crack about it being a local car dealer. If, however, the good ol' boys club decides that they're not viable, then there could be pressure to sell. That's where Burkle comes in. All that being said, they really have been adamant that they would not sell the team.Right now, this feels like a Hail Mary, which is exactly what CBSSports.com's Ken Berger called it on Twitter.
Sac Mayor Kevin Johnson unleashed Hail Mary today in his bid to keep the Kings in Sacramento. Ron Burkle wants to buy team, keep it in Sac. "We felt good about it," said Darius Anderson, who is with Burkle's proposed ownership group. "We're just trying to present alternatives." But the Burkle plan was met with skepticism in the owners's executive committee meeting. "Too little, too late," one team rep said.Bloomberg.com reported on Thursday that Gavin Maloof was asked about the possibility of a Burkle bid and said simply: "We are not selling."
The NBA and its individual owners do have a vested interest in both keeping franchises in their current cities and finding self-sustaining ownership groups. Johnson knows that, and his pitch will likely be greeted with open arms by everyone except the Maloofs, who now face all sorts of new questions and complications. Johnson's plan clearly succeeded in one major way: it turned what the Maloofs had hoped would be a discreet process into a battle involving the court of public opinion.