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Sacramento Kings owners say lobbyist ‘grasping at straws’ in ownership lawsuit

Darius Anderson speaks at a City Council meeting regarding the Sacramento Kings in March 2013. Anderson is suing Kings co-owners Vivek Ranadive and Mark Mastrov over his exclusion from the ownership group.
Darius Anderson speaks at a City Council meeting regarding the Sacramento Kings in March 2013. Anderson is suing Kings co-owners Vivek Ranadive and Mark Mastrov over his exclusion from the ownership group. Sacramento Bee file

Sacramento Kings co-owners Vivek Ranadive and Mark Mastrov have asked a judge to get rid of a lawsuit by a lobbyist and developer who claims they reneged on a promise to let him invest in the team.

In papers filed late last week in San Mateo Superior Court, a lawyer for Ranadive and Mastrov said they made only vague promises to lobbyist Darius Anderson about allowing him into the ownership group. Although there were discussions, “the parties never reached definitive agreement on a single term,” said the filing by attorney John Keker.

Anderson is “grasping at straws,” he wrote.

A hearing on the Ranadive-Mastrov motion, known as a demurrer, is set for April 6.

In his lawsuit, Anderson said he was denied entry into ownership despite playing a key role in thwarting the Kings’ planned sale to investors from Seattle in 2013. The Kings were sold to the Ranadive group, in a deal that valued the franchise at $534 million, after the NBA blocked the proposed Seattle relocation.

Anderson said he teamed up with his longtime business associate, Southern California billionaire Ron Burkle, to assemble an initial bid that competed with the Seattle offer. Anderson was also part of the investment group that secured control of Downtown Plaza, which served as the future home of the new Kings arena demanded by the NBA. In court papers, Anderson has said he’ll likely call Burkle, Mayor Kevin Johnson and retired NBA Commissioner David Stern as witnesses in the case.

Ranadive and Mastrov sought to downplay Anderson’s efforts in the movement to keep the Kings in Sacramento.

“Plaintiff takes a remarkable amount of credit for a half-billion-dollar deal to which he did not contribute a cent,” their lawyer said in the court filing. “While the complaint alleges that plaintiff was enthusiastic about keeping the Kings in Sacramento, enthusiasm does not entitle a fan to an ownership share in a team.”

Anderson’s lawsuit seeks monetary damages and an order establishing his “rightful share” of the team.

The Kings have never said why Anderson wasn’t allowed to buy into the team. In an interview more than a year ago, Mastrov said Anderson is “a Burkle guy, he’s not a Vivek guy, and Burkle didn’t get the team.”

Burkle had to drop out of the ownership group because of a conflict of interest.

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

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