Kevin Johnson says he’s making “considerable progress” towards finding the deep pockets needed for Sacramento’s bid to keep the Kings. At a press conference at city hall today, the mayor also added that he has a call scheduled with NBA commissioner David Stern sometime tomorrow.
“I’ll update him on our local group here in Sacramento,” Johnson said. ”I’ll update him on our efforts. And we’ll kind of go from there.”
Last night, multiple reports surfaced that supermarket billionaire Ron Burkle and fitness magnate Mark Mastrov were in discussions to team as major equity investors in the city’s effort to keep the Kings. When pressed, Johnson evaded going into further detail today regarding those reports.
“We have had serious discussions and we’re making considerable progress,” Johnson said as he met with reporters Wednesday afternoon. ”But I do want to respect the nature of those discussions and not get into that at this particular time.”
According to Johnson, these “whale” investors, as they’ve been described, believe Sacramento to be a strong NBA market and are committed to keeping the team in the capital city. Johnson also noted that they have the resources to run a “championship-caliber product”.
“They’ve come to me and they said look we want to participate,” Johnson told media. “I said there’s more than one, there’s more than two. And now they’re doing their due diligence too. They’re looking at the deal structure.
“They’re trying to get as much information as possible,” the mayor continued. ”And the more they get it, the more excited they’ll be. The more they’re going ask more questions. All that’s good stuff. They’re just trying to understand the economics of it.”
Johnson is tentatively planning to reveal those major equity investors sometime next week. The mayor’s goal is to be in position to unveil them as early as Monday, at the latest Friday.
Though not many outside of Sacramento are giving the city a chance in its fight to keep the Kings, Johnson continues to argue otherwise. He pointed out that it would be unprecedented for a major sports team to leave a community that’s done everything it was asked.
“When has a team ever been bought and relocated when a city and a community has done everything that was asked of them?” Johnson explained. ”That just hasn’t happened. I don’t have that. I don’t have any example. No one has had an example of that being the case. There’s always some mitigating circumstances…”
Last year, the NBA, city and arena developer AEG all backed a plan to build a new downtown arena at the Sacramento Rail yards. That plan was in full effect until the Maloofs raised concerns about the deal a month after all parties had tentatively reached agreement. AEG boss Tim Leiweke has stated his company remains committed to that deal if the Kings stay in Sacramento.
Johnson also added that his list of investors with local ties is growing. The mayor said that on top of the 20 commitments he revealed yesterday, a 21st has been added today.