Deep-pocket investors, ownership options looked at in Sacramento Kings future

9:00 PM, Jan 24, 2013   |    comments
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SACRAMENTO, CA - Thursday was a day full of hypotheticals, insider analysis and large-whale possibilities when it comes to keeping the Sacramento Kings in northern California.

Maybe one of the largest headlines came from the Sacramento Bee, reporting that Mayor Kevin Johnson could be meeting with Larry Ellison, the third richest man in America according to Forbes.

MORE: SacBee.com - Oracle's Larry Ellison to meet with Johnson, Kings minority owner says

Ellison, the CEO of Oracle, is worth $41 billion, making him 3rd on the Forbes 400 list. The billionaire also tried to buy the Golden State Warriors in 2010.

City officials would not confirm the meeting to the Bee.

On a separate, yet related note, sources told News10 that the game to keep the Kings is getting interesting. Bob Cook, a 7 percent minority owner of the Kings, is going through bankruptcy and his shares will soon be auctioned off.

The source said hypothetically, the two whales Johnson is believed to be working closest with, Ron Burkle and Mastrov, could buy that 7 percent and earn a seat at the ownership table.

That possibility lends itself to another, something called the "right of first refusal."

A bankruptcy lawyer for Cook said a bankruptcy hearing will be held next Thursday, in which he'll raise the question of whether or not the Maloof's sale to Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer violates the minority owners' right of first refusal.

If that clause exists in the limited partnership agreement, or if the language is strong enough, the minority owners could have the chance to match or compete with the Seattle bid before the team is sold.

On Thursday, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson acknowledged all of those possibilities could be strategies, but they're not focusing on them.

"It's going to create a little bit more of a mess up in Seattle," Johnson said. "It's mucking it up a little bit, we get that. But that's not how we're playing. We're trying to do what we need to do, and I think from our vantage point, it's a competitive advantage."

However, a sports attorney questions the reality of the right of first refusal becoming an issue. Michael McCann, who is also a NBA analyst, said he would assume the Hansen-Ballmer group would have found that road bump long ago.

"You've got to think so. You've got to think it would already be looked at, contemplated and addressed," McCann said. "That's why my suspicion is that the right of first refusal isn't worded as powerfully as it needs to be to actually block the trade, but that's speculation on my part because I haven't seen it." 

Johnson, along with State Senate President Darrell Steinberg, State Senator Ted Gaines and a handful of other elected officials met in Steinberg's office Thursday. Afterwards, the group told reporters everything possible would be done on a regional level to keep the Kings in Sacramento.

When asked about Ellison being another possible whale, Johnson said, "I don't want to get into who all we've spoken to or whose bids we're entertaining at this point. I feel like it's my responsibility to protect their interests."

The Maloofs announced Monday they agreed to sell their share of the team to Chris Hansen. The deal is reportedly worth $525 million. The Maloofs would get $340 million for the 65 percent they have.

Hansen is expected to move the Kings to Seattle as soon as the 2013-14 season, if the NBA approves the sale and relocation in April.

By Nick Monacelli, nick@news10.net

News10/KXTV

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