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Potential Kings buyer emerges, would keep team in Sacramento

Even as the Maloof family negotiates with a Seattle group that would move the Kings there, another potential buyer who would keep the team in Sacramento has emerged, CBSSports.com has learned.

Mark Mastrov, the founder of 24-Hour Fitness who finished second to Joe Lacob and Peter Guber in bidding for the Warriors, told CBSSports.com Friday that he has interest in buying the Kings and keeping the franchise in Sacramento.

"Definitely, there've been conversations," Mastrov said from his northern California office. "Definitely, there's interest in acquiring the team and keeping it in Sacramento."

Mastrov met with the Maloofs recently, and two league sources speaking on condition of anonymity said he has made a formal offer.

Supermarket magnate Ron Burkle has long been interested in buying the Kings and keeping them in Sacramento, and is well known to NBA owners who would approve any sale. But having made it to the final round of the process with the Warriors sale, Mastrov is familiar with the NBA process and league executives are familiar with him.

A Seattle group led by hedge-fund manager Chris Hansen and Microsoft's Steve Ballmer is deep in negotiations to buy the team for upwards of $500 million and move it to Seattle. Those discussions are ongoing, and league sources indicate a formal deal has not been struck.

One person briefed on the negotiations said the Maloofs' intentions remained difficult to read, except in one area: "They are pushing for a bidding war."

A fitness industry maven whose net worth is estimated at $350 million, Mastrov likely would not have to match the Seattle price dollar-for-dollar because of the complicated finances of breaking the arena lease and repaying a city loan of about $77 million. If the team stayed in Sacramento, the new owner would be able to assume the loan terms. A new owner who relocated the team would have to pay back the loan.

One person familiar with the lease and loan terms characterized that as "a fairly expensive and Herculean feat."

The NBA office declined comment on the Maloofs' private negotiations, though it is widely known that commissioner David Stern's strong preference is for the Kings to remain in Sacramento.

Mastrov has other investors involved in his group, but declined to identify them.

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