Manny Crisostomo /

Vivek Ranadive is spending an increasing amount of time in Sacramento and is buying a loft in midtown.

Thanks for helping keep Kings here, new owner tells Sacramento business leaders

Published: Friday, Oct. 4, 2013 - 2:43 pm
Last Modified: Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013 - 10:42 am

In his first major appearance before Sacramento’s corporate community, new Kings lead owner Vivek Ranadive vowed Friday to make the team a brand name in China and his native India – and asked for business leaders’ help in painting the town purple for opening night.

Ranadive, new team president Chris Granger and Mayor Kevin Johnson spoke at the Sacramento Metro Chamber’s annual Perspectives luncheon, and the event was totally given over to the city’s NBA franchise. The team mascot, Slamson, worked the room, while Kings broadcaster Grant Napear emceed.

Johnson and Ranadive thanked the 800 or so business leaders for their role in the multiyear campaign that kept the team in town, while regaling the crowd with bits of inside information on Sacramento’s battles with Anaheim and later Seattle over the team’s future.

The mayor said that when he got the climactic phone call in mid-May from a league official informing him that the owners had just voted to veto the proposed move to Seattle, he and Ranadive hugged for a while. Then Ranadive said: “Why did he call you first? You’re not putting any money in. You’re not risking anything.”

The crowd at the Hyatt ballroom roared with laughter.

Granger, who had been a high-level executive with the NBA during the Seattle fight, said the community’s 28 years of supporting the Kings made a huge impression on league owners who were deciding the Kings’ fate.

“It’s very difficult to ignore that (history) for the NBA, for the owners,” Granger said. “At the end of the day, it made a heck of a difference.”

Ranadive and his fellow investors bought the team from the Maloofs after the move to Seattle was blocked. One of his first decisions was to hire Granger – who he revealed was in line for the deputy commissioner’s post in the NBA when he accepted the Kings’ presidency in July.

Granger had been in charge of an NBA program that assists troubled franchises with their business operations. One of his stops was in Sacramento, in May 2011, where he oversaw the rebuilding of the Kings’ tattered operations after the Maloofs abandoned their quest to move the Kings to Anaheim.

The mayor thanked the business owners who pledged $10 million in corporate sponsorships to the team in a week’s time in 2011 – an outpouring that helped block the potential move to Anaheim. “We had to show ... we had corporate participation,” he said.

Ranadive repeated his pledge to turn the Kings into an internationally known franchise, noting that the Oct. 30 opener at Sleep Train Arena will be televised live in India. “We’re going to be very, very aggressive about building the brand in places like India and China,” he said.

He added that he wants opening night to be special. “I need all of you to help me with that,” he said. “I expect the city to be purple that day.”

Ranadive said he has invited Gov. Jerry Brown and his wife, Anne Gust Brown – who attended a dinner for new Kings minority owner Shaquille O’Neal – to opening night, and asked the governor to bathe the Capitol dome in purple light that evening, but Brown said he can colorize the dome only on state holidays.

Granger said the team plans to donate $2 million to area charities this year. The team’s annual Rhythm ’n Rims charity event Oct. 13, set for Capitol Mall, will include a “little exhibition game” featuring the Kings, he said. A temporary 3,000-seat stadium will be built on the mall for the event.

Call The Bee’s Dale Kasler, (916) 321-1066. Follow him on Twitter @dakasler.

Read more articles by Dale Kasler

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