Mayor Kevin Johnson this afternoon said he had assembled 19 local business leaders who have each committed $1 million toward purchasing the Kings and keeping the team in Sacramento.
The group - which includes some of the region's best-known developers and business owners - would partner with at least one deep-pocketed investor to make a counter offer to the deal made by a group seeking to move the Kings to Seattle. Johnson said he is hopeful he will be able to unveil the identity of the ultra-wealthy investor or investors - whom he called "the whales" - by the end of this week.
"We're making progress on the whales," he said.
But Johnson said he wanted to introduce the local investors first, even though their stake will not be nearly enough to buy a team.
"These are folks who realize that the Kings are a civic asset for our community," the mayor said during a boisterous press conference at City Hall, flanked by more than a dozen of those business leaders, throngs of cheering Kings fans and most of the City Council.
Johnson plans to combine the local group and large investor with a concrete arena financing plan and present them to the NBA as he argues for the league to reject the deal to move the Kings to Seattle. The Maloof family, who own the Kings, announced a deal Monday to sell the Kings to a group led by Seattle hedge-fund manager Chris Hansen.
The list of locals includes developer David Taylor, who had signed on to develop an arena in the downtown railyard before a financing plan for that facility collapsed last year. Taylor, who has dealt with the Maloofs on multiple arena efforts, said he "wishes them well, but I wish they'd sell to us."
Another local partner is Phil Oates, also a developer and the son of local real estate pioneer Marvin "Buzz" Oates.
"I'm doing this for one reason," he said. "It's time to fight."
As for the deep-pocketed investors, who will be counted on to contribute most of what will likely be an offer of at least $340 million to keep the Kings here, Johnson said "we're making great progress." He said multiple groups have expressed interest in being the major investor in the team, all of whom have agreed to partner with the local group assembled by Johnson.