April 10, 2013

Developer Friedman joins Sacramento group pursuing Kings

The team trying to keep the Sacramento Kings in town underwent another roster change Tuesday, as prominent Sacramento developer Mark Friedman signed onto the effort.

The team trying to keep the Sacramento Kings in town underwent another roster change Tuesday, as prominent Sacramento developer Mark Friedman signed onto the effort.

Friedman came aboard one day after Southern California billionaire Ron Burkle was forced to scale back his involvement because of a conflict of interest.

Friedman, whose family controls Arden Fair mall and other properties, said the timing of the announcements was coincidental. He said he's been thinking of investing in the Kings since January, when the Maloof family agreed to sell its controlling interest in the team to a group from Seattle for $341 million.

Although the NBA is planning to decide next week whether to let the team move, Mayor Kevin Johnson said league officials aren't bothered that the structure of Sacramento's bid remains somewhat fluid.

"They always knew (the investors) had more than enough money," Johnson said at a City Hall news conference welcoming Friedman to the effort.

NBA spokesman Mike Bass declined to comment on the Sacramento ownership situation Tuesday.

Johnson said he mentioned Friedman to the NBA team owners and league officials who met in New York last week to hear competing presentations from Sacramento and Seattle. The NBA representatives responded favorably, the mayor said.

"They thought that gives us one of our advantages, the fact that we have such a strong local presence (in the bid)," Johnson said. The mayor earlier recruited 20 other area investors to participate in the Kings bid by investing $1 million apiece, although it's unclear what role they would play.

Friedman joins lead investors Vivek Ranadive, a Silicon Valley software tycoon; Mark Mastrov, a health club financier from the East Bay; and the Jacobs family of San Diego, founders of wireless giant Qualcomm Inc.

Burkle is now limiting himself to investing in real estate development adjacent to the proposed arena at Downtown Plaza and will no longer invest in the team or the arena itself. At the same time, a source said Monday that the Jacobses have agreed to increase their participation in the project.

Friedman said he will invest in all three elements of the effort: team, arena and surrounding redevelopment at the struggling mall. The redevelopment could include a hotel, offices, retail and more.

While he wouldn't say how much he's investing, Friedman, the president of Fulcrum Group, said, "I'm making a big bet. What this will do is ignite the downtown."

One of Johnson's political backers, Friedman is the son of the late lawyer, businessman and philanthropist Mort Friedman. The Friedmans donated $10 million to the expansion of the Crocker Art Museum and have long been involved in the Sacramento Jewish community.

Arden Fair has been the family's signature property since 1973, but the younger Friedman has been among the leaders in bringing new life to old buildings in the midtown area.

The Elliott Building at 16th and J streets, for instance, is a 1920s car dealership converted into offices, lofts and restaurants. Friedman's office is located there, and Gov. Jerry Brown and his wife, Anne Gust Brown, have a loft upstairs.

Friedman said he began talking to Ranadive and Mastrov two months ago about entering the bidding for the Kings. He said he became keenly interested in the redevelopment that's contemplated just outside the proposed new arena.

"I began to realize just how transformative this will be for this community in a way that goes beyond basketball," he said. "That's what's so exciting about this opportunity."

Although the Maloofs have struck a deal with the Seattle investors, the sale and relocation require approval from the NBA board of governors. The group led by Ranadive and Mastrov is presenting a counteroffer.

The board of governors expects to decide on the team's fate at a meeting in New York on April 18 or 19, although the decision could come later.

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

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