Ronald Burkle, the man trying to keep Sacramento in the NBA, is a college dropout turned billionaire. He's a former supermarket stock boy with friends like Leonardo DiCaprio, a $30 million mansion in Beverly Hills and his own Boeing 757.
But unlike the family he would like to replace as owner of the Kings the Maloofs Burkle is publicity shy and rarely does media interviews. He was nowhere in sight Thursday when his stunning plan to keep the NBA in Sacramento was revealed.
Instead, the pitch to NBA owners in New York was made by Darius Anderson, a longtime Burkle associate and a high-powered Sacramento lobbyist in his own right.
The two have hatched a plan to buy the Kings from the Maloofs and keep the franchise from moving to Anaheim. Barring that, they say they want to buy another team, such as the troubled New Orleans Hornets, and move it to Sacramento.
Burkle worked his way up from stock boy to owner of Southern California's Stater Bros. grocery chain. That became a launching pad to an investment career that has brought him a net worth of $3.2 billion, according to Forbes magazine. He has poured money into such diverse holdings as Whole Foods and Barnes & Noble.
Those who know him say Burkle usually gets what he wants and turns it into a success.
Burkle bought hockey's Pittsburgh Penguins out of bankruptcy, turned the team into winners and put together a deal for a new arena. That's sure to get the attention of NBA owners, who will ultimately decide whether the Kings move or Sacramento gets another team.
"They've already seen what he's done with the Penguins," said Lloyd Greif, a Los Angeles financier who knows Burkle. "He is not someone to be underestimated."
Burkle and Anderson have connections to Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, who participated in the presentation in New York. Johnson and Anderson have known each other for years, with Anderson often sitting in for former state Treasurer Phil Angelides at board meetings of Johnson's nonprofit St. HOPE organization.
The mayor and Burkle have several high-profile mutual friends, including basketball legend Magic Johnson, who has had success as a commercial real estate investor.
Burkle and Anderson are no strangers to controversy.
In 2002, Burkle's private equity firm, Yucaipa Cos., obtained a $760 million investment from CalPERS after he made thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to several pension fund board members. The move raised questions about conflicts of interest.
Yucaipa continues to invest more than $800 million for CalPERS.
More recently, Burkle's friendship and business partnership with former President Bill Clinton attracted attention. Yucaipa paid Clinton more than $15 million in consulting fees, according to a profile in Businessweek, while reports of their jetting around the world in Burkle's 757 generated enormous publicity.
The two men distanced themselves from one another when Hillary Clinton became secretary of state.
Anderson, meanwhile, became a star of sorts in California Democratic circles as a lobbyist and fundraiser. His clients have included Angelides and former Gov. Gray Davis.
Working as a fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee in the early 1990s, he met Burkle. He went to work for Burkle in 1993 and started advising his boss on public policy and political fundraising. Since then, Burkle has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars, mainly to Democrats.
After hooking up with Burkle, Anderson formed his own lobbying firm, Platinum Advisors of Sacramento.
Last spring Anderson and Platinum paid $500,000 to settle an investigation into their work as "placement agents" seeking investments from CalPERS and New York state's public pension fund. The Platinum case was one of the smaller subplots in a much larger probe of pension fund corruption in both states.
New York's attorney general at the time, Andrew Cuomo, said Anderson's firm wasn't licensed to work on pension fund investment deals.
Neither Platinum nor Anderson admitted any wrongdoing or were charged with a crime.