City Beat

News, insight and discussion on Sacramento and its neighborhoods

January 23, 2013
Mayor doesn't reveal 'whale,' but says talks with potential Kings ownership group moving quickly

Mayor Kevin Johnson isn't quite ready to reveal the identity of the whales.

Johnson told reporters this afternoon that he had "made considerable progress with discussions with major ownership groups" that would make a pitch to buy the Sacramento Kings and block a deal that would move the team to Seattle. The mayor has referred to those deep-pocketed investors as "whales."

A source told The Bee on Tuesday that billionaire grocery tycoon Ron Burkle and 24 Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov are in serious discussions to partner on a bid for the Kings and align themselves with the city of Sacramento on a plan to help finance a new downtown sports arena.

Johnson has said he will present a pitch to the NBA in April to keep the Kings in Sacramento that will include an ownership group and an arena plan. Earlier this week, the Maloof family - which owns the Kings - said they had reached an agreement to sell the franchise to a group in Seattle that would move the team to the Pacific Northwest.

The mayor said he has spoken with multiple people interested in serving as the chief equity investor in his plan to keep the Kings. He said his goal was to solidify the final group by next week.

Johnson would not reveal whether Burkle and Mastrov were leading a bid for the team, saying he did not want to divulge the details of discussions that remain private.

He did say that a 21st local business leader had agreed to commit $1 million to be part of a potential ownership group. Those local investors would partner with the deep-pocketed investor.

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About City Beat

Ryan Lillis has covered the city of Sacramento, its 108 neighborhoods and its politicians since 2008. Prior to that, he covered crime at The Bee. A native of upstate New York, Lillis has a journalism degree from the University of California, Berkeley.

Contact reporter Ryan Lillis at


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