Mayor seeks to have detailed plan to keep Kings by month's end

02/06/2013 12:00 AM

09/18/2013 12:19 PM

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson still wasn't ready Tuesday to reveal the identities of the deep-pocketed investors he's recruited to make a pitch to buy the Kings.

But despite going past his self-imposed time frame for that announcement, Johnson said he remained confident he would deliver a competitive bid to keep the team here.

Johnson told reporters the investors are "doing their due diligence and working very hard" to come to terms on a bid for the Kings.

Besides an offer to buy the Kings, that plan is also expected to include a proposal to build a downtown sports arena.

The mayor plans to present that package to the NBA's board of governors as a counteroffer to a deal reached between the Kings' owners and a group seeking to move the franchise to Seattle. Johnson said he wants his plan solidified by the end of this month.

The deal between the Maloofs, who own the Kings, and the Seattle group is binding. The NBA, however, will ultimately decide whether to support Johnson's proposal or approve the Seattle agreement.

While Johnson has declined to name his wealthy investors, billionaire Ron Burkle and 24 Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov are in serious talks over partnering on a bid.

"I think we're really close," the mayor said. "(Not having an announcement yet) is not a negative by any means. This is a complex deal."

Burkle has advocated directly to NBA Commissioner David Stern for the construction of an arena at Downtown Plaza. City officials have also studied placing an arena in the downtown railyard, and Johnson said the investors would likely have the final say over which site is preferred for an arena.

"We're in a fortunate position to have two sites that we think will work for an arena," City Manager John Shirey said. "We're prepared, in the event that ownership comes forward, to work with them on either location."

Meanwhile, the blog NBC ProBasketballTalk obtained excerpts of a partnership agreement that seemed to support the contention – first raised two weeks ago by the bankruptcy trustee who controls minority owner Bob Cook's 7 percent share – that limited partners might have the right to match the Seattle group's purchase offer.

According to the excerpt, a partner planning to sell his share "shall first make a written offer to sell such interest to the remaining partners."

The document's excerpts might not prove the limited partners' claim but could make the NBA think twice about letting the Seattle deal go through, said Michael McCann, a sports-law expert at the University of New Hampshire who reviewed the excerpts.

"The more complicated and less certain this becomes, the more the NBA will have concerns," he said.

The bankruptcy trustee is auctioning Cook's share later this spring. If he can prove his claim that limited partners have the right to match the Seattle offer, then the 7 percent share becomes considerably more valuable.

The trustee, David Flemmer, is negotiating with the Maloofs to secure access to confidential documents relating to the Seattle deal.

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