Sacramento Kings minority owner Bob Cook told The Sacramento Bee today that he has asked a Bay Area sports attorney to broker a meeting between Larry Ellison, the third-richest man in America, and Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson in hopes of helping Johnson's effort to find a buyer willing to keep the Sacramento Kings in town.
Cook, part of the original group that brought the NBA team to Sacramento, told The Bee today he stepped back after making an initial phone call Monday to an associate who knows Ellison, but said he believes a meeting will occur toward the end of this week.
Representatives for Ellison, founder and head of the Oracle software company, declined comment today.
The mayor's office issued a statement declining comment as well. "Out of respect for the private nature of these conversations, we are not commenting on any of the ongoing discussions with potential equity partners, real or imagined."
Earlier Thursday, in a press conference, the mayor deflected a question about Ellison.
"I don't want to get into who all we've spoken to or whose bids we're entertaining at this point. I feel like it's my responsibility to protect their interests."
The Maloof family, the team's majority owners, announced this week that they have agreed to sell their majority stake in the team to a group that intends to relocate the Kings to Seattle later this year.
Mayor Johnson has responded by saying he is talking with several wealthy business people to see if any are interested in making a counter offer that he can present to the NBA this spring in hopes of stopping the sale and move. Johnson has declined to name names.
Several sources however said two major players already are in serious talks about a potential bid - Ron Burkle, a multi-billionaire grocer magnate in Southern California, and Mark Mastrov, founder of 24-Hour Fitness.
Both have been described by the mayor's team as "whales," capable of meeting NBA standards for team owners.
Ellison, if interested, would be the biggest whale yet. Forbes magazine places his net worth at an estimated $41 billion. He recently purchased the Hawaiian island of Lanai, which had been up for sale for a reported $500 million to $600 million.
Ellison was in the running to buy the Golden State Warriors two years ago and actually outbid the eventual winners, Joseph Lacob and Peter Guber, according to various media reports. Ellison lost out on the team because his final offer was said to have come in too late.
Ellison has connections in the Sacramento area. He underwent surgery at UC Davis Medical Center in 1992 after being badly injured in a bicycle accident, and wound up donating $6 million to the school. The school's ambulatory care center is named after him.
Cook owns 7 percent of the team, but his shares are slated for auction as part of his bankruptcy case. He said he contacted the sports attorney because he believes Sacramento deserves to keep the Kings.
"It is important the community knows we are making the effort to keep the team in town," Cook said. "Gregg Lukenbill, Joe Benvenuti and I spent years of hard work bringing the team to Sacramento, and we are not going to let it leave Sacramento without a fight."