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April 14, 2011
Johnson: Billionaire Ronald Burkle exploring effort to buy Kings

Kings Move Basketball(2).jpgBy Tony Bizjak, Ryan Lillis and Dale Kasler

NEW YORK - A stunning new proposal to buy the Sacramento Kings or bring another team to the city emerged today, even as the Maloof family moved closer to taking the Kings to Anaheim.

Southern California billionaire and Democratic fundraiser Ronald Burkle is exploring buying the Kings, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson said on Twitter.

The Maloofs have vowed never to sell the team and repeated that pledge today. "It does not matter. They're not going to sell the team," said Troy Hanson, a team spokesman. Should they refuse to deal with Burkle, sources say Burkle also is exploring purchasing another team and moving them to Sacramento.

The New Orleans Hornets, a troubled franchise literally taken over by the league last year, would be a likely candidate for relocation.

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Sources said Burkle's representative, longtime Sacramento lobbyist Darius Anderson, presented the plan alongside Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson to the NBA Board of Governors meeting. They were accompanied by Tim Romani of the ICON Group, the development firm hired by the city to study the feasibility of a new arena.

Building a new arena in Sacramento, to replace outdated Power Balance Pavilion, would be critical to any NBA future in Sacramento. "Part of this is my personal passion for Sacramento," said Anderson, who would be an investor in the project. "I can't sit idly by and let this happen."

He said a new arena is a must, though.

"We definitely want a new arena."

Burkle, whose wealth is estimated at $3.2 billion, is a supermarket tycoon and private investor with extensive political connections. His friends have included Bill Clinton, former Gov. Gray Davis and former Vice President Al Gore - as well as actor Leonardo DiCaprio.

He co-owns hockey's Pittsburgh Penguins and was instrumental in getting a new arena built in Pittsburgh to keep the team from moving to Kansas City three years ago.

As reporters milled outside the exclusive St. Regis Hotel, site of the NBA meetings, the emergence of the Burkle plan nearly drowned out the drama surrounding the Kings and the Maloofs. Inside the hotel, the Maloofs made a pitch to their fellow owners about "what's good and bad about Sacramento and Anaheim," co-owner George Maloof said.

"I think we made progress and we'll meet some more tomorrow," Maloof said after the family's presentation.

He said the Maloofs were likely to formally seek permission to move Monday, the league-imposed deadline. But he indicated that the team could stay in Sacramento if the Maloofs sense that owners are opposed to the move. Most NBA relocations sail through easily, but the presence of two franchises in Los Angeles could make a move to Anaheim uncertain.

PHOTO CREDIT: Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson speaks to reporters after making a presentation to the NBA Board of Governors Thursday, April 14, 2011 in New York. Sacramento Kings owners Joe and Gavin Maloof are considering a move to Anaheim and must file a relocation application with the basketball league by Monday. Mary Altaffer, Associated Press.

Call The Bee's Tony Bizjak, (916) 321-1059.

Instant reaction on Twitter

Scanning #Burkle biography info. He is LOVED by organized labor. In Sacramento, those are MAGIC WORDS #HereWeBuild #HereWeStay #HereWeBurkleless than a minute ago via web Favorite Retweet Reply

Maloofs don't want to sell, at least that's what they've said. If Kings leave, this new deal would have to be Burkle buying/moving Hornets.less than a minute ago via TweetDeck Favorite Retweet Reply

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