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New potential owner for Kings takes lead in Sacramento group

Mar 21, 2013, 8:10 PM EDT

Clippers Kings Basketball AP

A few weeks back, David Stern was clear in saying that the Sacramento group had to sweeten its offer to buy the Kings if they wanted to stay in contention with the Seattle bid. It’s a negotiation, that statement didn’t catch the leaders in Sacramento off guard.

The question was what were they going to do about it?

How about bring in another billionaire to take the lead of the group? That is what has happened, reports the very connected Sam Amick at the USA Today.

Vivek Ranadive, founder of the $4 billion software company, Tibco, and a minority owner of the Golden State Warriors, has agreed to take a lead role in the group that was previously led by 24-Hour Fitness founder, Mark Mastrov, according to a person with knowledge of the move. The person spoke to USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity because the agreement had not yet been announced.

Mastrov and supermarket mogul/part owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins Ron Burkle are still major players in both the bid for the team and the downtown arena effort that was expected to be revealed by way of a term sheet on Thursday, but Ranadive agreed to take part recently after pushing for a more significant say in personnel matters.

This certainly adds deeper pockets to the Sacramento bid. What it will mean to the other NBA owners remains to be seen, but likely it only helps the Sacramento side. Ranadive is not an NBA outsider but a minority owner of the Warriors (he would have to sell that share if the sale is approved).

The Maloof family has agreed to sell the Kings to a Seattle-based group that plans to move the Kings up to the city that lost the Sonics. That group is led by venture capitalist Chris Hansen and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, and they valued the franchise at $525 million and have an agreement to buy 65 percent of it. They also have plans for a new arena moving forward, currently in the environmental review phase.

Both the sale and relocation would need to be approved by the other owners and NBA Commissioner David Stern has put the two votes on a parallel track. It requires a three-quarters vote of the other 29 owners to approve the sale — meaning Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and his group need to sway eight other owners to their side to block the sale. If that sale is blocked, the Maloof family would in turn sell to the Sacramento group and the team would stay put.

If the sale is approved it only requires a majority vote of the owners to approve the relocation. Meaning if the owners approve the sale to the Seattle group they will approve the relocation.

There is a whole lot more complexity to this sale — a city loan to the Kings to the Maloofs, a current Kings minority owner trying to make another bid, thoughts about precedent the sale could have on future owners’ sales, all the way to discussions of television market size and per capita income — that we have discussed in detail multiple times at PBT. Right now NBA ownership committees are doing their research on the sale and relocation, and how all that impacts the league. Those committees will meet April 3 — where Johnson and the Sacramento group will make a pitch to the committees for sure.

In the end, the owners will vote at meetings in New York April 18-19, but right now is when the lobbying behind-the-scenes is taking place. And the Sacramento bid likely just got better.

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