Marcos Bretón

Marcos Breton: Burkle's bowing out could bolster Sacramento's bid for Kings

Marcos Breton
Marcos Breton

At first blush, it seemed like a big setback for Sacramento to lose billionaire Ron Burkle as a potential Kings owner and developer of a downtown arena to block a franchise move to Seattle.

But it just may be an unforeseen blessing.

Burkle, the Southern California mogul, is known to be despised by the Maloofs, the current Kings owners.

Two years ago, when the Maloofs tried to move the Kings to Anaheim, it was Burkle who materialized as a suitor to keep the Kings in Sacramento. That helped put doubt in the minds of NBA owners and aided Mayor Kevin Johnson's play to retain the Kings – at least for now.

The problem with that temporary victory is this: How do you get the Maloofs to go along with a Sacramento deal when they hate one of the lead guys because he foiled their move?

Well, now Burkle won't be a minority Kings owner or the developer of the arena because the NBA was uncomfortable with his partial stake in a sports-management group that represents NBA players.

And as Burkle fades to the background, so does a major Maloof objection to any Sacramento bid.

Yes, it really does matter.

NBA owners are nothing if not hypersensitive to the wishes and desires of fellow owners.

The Maloofs are said to be very motivated to sell the Kings to Seattle interests.

But with Burkle out, the Maloofs can't pull the "disrespected card" that they have dropped around Sacramento at every turn for years.

NBA Commissioner David Stern already said that the Maloofs have a say in the sale of the team, but not where the team resides.

It's up to Stern to make sure that the Sacramento group can make the Maloofs whole – and it seems that everyone agrees that it can.

I'd bet that Johnson and the potential Sacramento owners he amassed would rather have Burkle in than out for obvious reasons.

But a group led by Vivek Ranadive, a software titan who could help the NBA tap into India as an emerging market, has more than enough money to bid on the Kings.

Mark Friedman, a Sacramento developer introduced Tuesday as the newest member of Ranadive's group, could easily oversee key details of an arena project.

Given this, what do Stern and the NBA owners care if the Maloofs get their price and a viable venture is allowed to flourish in Sacramento? Why would the Maloofs care where the team went as long as they got their price?

It's true the Kings could fetch a larger TV deal in Seattle, but a few million more for each NBA owner isn't more valuable than a Kings franchise in Sacramento at an exaggerated price.

The NBA path is clear: Get the Maloofs their money, make money in Sacramento and get Seattle a team if it really wants one.

It's not personal. It's strictly business.

Call The Bee's Marcos Breton, (916) 321-1096. Back columns, www.sacbee.com/breton. Follow him on Twitter @marcosbreton.

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