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Sources: “Mega-Whales” Ron Burkle and Mark Mastrov in serious talks with Sacramento

Jan 22, 2013, 11:50 PM EDT

Ron Burkle2

There aren’t a lot of people willing to give Sacramento much of a fighting chance to hold on to the Kings, but they’re not going down without a big money fight.

Sources familiar with the situation tell ProBasketballTalk that “mega whales” Ron Burkle and Mark Mastrov are in serious talks with the city of Sacramento to collaborate on a bid to buy the Kings and keep them in California’s capitol.

Additionally, sources report that there is no shortage of bidders as at least five groups have approached the city and have NBA-level credentials.

Burkle famously was interested in buying the Kings from the Maloofs when they filed for relocation in 2011, but was rebuffed by the family in an emotional response.

From Sacramento’s perspective, the combination of Burkle and Mastrov would be an extremely compelling group to present to the NBA’s Board of Governors, and is being called a “dream team” by those close to the negotiations. Burkle, a billionaire, has transformed the Pittsburgh Penguins into a model NHL franchise and was coveted by Commissioner David Stern, who excitedly told Kevin Johnson last year, “You’ve got Burkle?” Mastrov founded the 24 Hour Fitness chain and finished second in a recent bid to purchase the Warriors, ahead of billionaire Larry Ellison.

Both owners would work with the city of Sacramento using a model of last year’s arena plan that was negotiated and agreed upon by David Stern and AEG. Sources say that their interest is derived from Sacramento’s burgeoning basketball marketplace, a market they has been evaluated in talks to be a top-5 NBA market when one factors in the lack of other sports competition.

Hanging over the situation is the fact that the NBA has received over $3 billion in public subsidy money for arenas since 1990, and sources with knowledge of the situation maintain that Sacramento’s current “model offer” of public funds will not go unrecognized by the NBA’s Board of Governors. Aside from a public relations nightmare similar to that of Sonicsgate, the league’s ability to secure future funds from cities could be threatened if Sacramento is abandoned for Seattle. Yahoo! Sports and CSN Bay Area have reported that the Board of Governors has already made up their minds to support a move to Seattle, but sources speaking to PBT on the condition of anonymity don’t see it that way.

The Sacramento Bee and USA Today were first to report these developments.

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