In a sign that Sacramento's arena effort is gaining urgency, City Manager John Shirey will ask the City Council on Tuesday for the OK to enter into arena financing negotiations with a private investment group as early as Wednesday.
Mayor Kevin Johnson's spokesman Ben Sosenko said on Saturday the mayor is confident the private group would have a "competitive" bid finalized to buy the Sacramento Kings by the end of the week.
That offer would then be submitted to the National Basketball Association, even though arena financing negotiations with the city would have just begun by then.
Notably, city officials continue to decline to reveal the names of the group they've been talking with during their effort in recent weeks to keep the team from being sold to a Seattle group.
Several people connected to the local effort say the principals are billionaire grocery businessman Ron Burkle of Southern California, who previously made an offer to buy the Kings, and 24 Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov, a Bay Area resident who attempted to buy the Golden State Warriors in 2010.
Both Shirey and Johnson have had recent informal talks with the group, and the mayor's representatives said those talks are going well after an initial hiccup two weeks ago when the group asked if the city could provide more than the $255 million the city was prepared to put into an arena project last year.
Representatives of Burkle could not be reached for comment Saturday evening. A Mastrov spokesman declined comment.
In a last-minute addition Saturday to the council agenda, Shirey expressed a desire to move quickly.
"After the council agenda had been posted (Thursday), the mayor's office informed the city manager that discussions with the parties considering an offer to purchase the Sacramento Kings are proceeding well and that the city should be prepared to commence formal negotiations relating to the development of a new downtown entertainment and sports center," the city manager's memo stated. "To provide the City Council and public with as much time as possible this item has been scheduled for Tuesday.
"A staff report with the guiding principles is being prepared . We apologize that the report will not be available until Monday, but given the circumstances we believe it is best to initiate the public discussion as soon as possible rather than postpone that discussion for another week."
The Maloof family, current majority team owners, recently announced they had signed a tentative deal to sell the team to a Seattle group that includes investor Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer, chief executive of Microsoft.
The sale has to be voted on by the NBA board of governors. The vote is expected April 18. Johnson has said he hopes to persuade the league to vote against the Seattle sale. The NBA cannot, however, require the Maloofs to sell to the Burkle and Mastrov group.
Assistant City Manager John Dangberg said the council has not been formally told who the investment group is. That group has requested confidentiality for now.
Councilman Steve Cohn said he thinks the time is right to begin negotiations, with the city having to have a concrete package in place by April.
Cohn said he might ask to restrict the scope of negotiations until the investors' names are officially revealed.
Mastrov recently came to Sacramento to meet with a group of potential minority investors in the team, and told them he is very interested in buying the team.
Burkle recently flew to New York to meet with NBA Commissioner David Stern, NBA officials said, where he pitched the merits of an arena at Downtown Plaza.
Dangberg said Shirey's goal is to bring a preliminary arena financing term sheet to the council for vote sometime before April 18.
On Friday, Shirey disclosed that the new investors had asked whether the city would go beyond the $255 million the city had offered in last year's failed arena deal.
The city didn't make a counteroffer but instead provided a detailed explanation of the subsidy approved last spring.
Shirey said the investors had "a greater appreciation" when city officials explained how they came up with that figure.
An arena financing package is considered critical to each city's bid for the Kings. Their existing arenas Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento and Seattle's KeyArena are considered outdated by NBA standards.
It's expected that Sacramento's subsidy, as it was last spring, would come mainly from monetizing thousands of city-owned parking places.