SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – Mayor Kevin Johnson held a press conference Tuesday afternoon where he introduced 19 local investors who have pledged $1 million each in a bid to keep the Kings in Sacramento.
A 20th millionaire investor came forward on Tuesday afternoon.
Backed by grassroots fans holding signs for their team, Johnson vowed to keep fighting in order to present a bid to the NBA Board of Governors next month.
As expected, however, the press conference didn’t reveal the billionaire investor described as the “whale” in the Sacramento’s group effort bid to buy the team. Johnson said he hoped to introduce a “major equity investor” by the end of the week.
Johnson’s comments were his first publicly after news broke on Sunday night that the Maloofs had entered a sales agreement with the Seattle group led by Chris Hansen to sell their majority interest in the Kings.
Mayor Johnson’s entire press conference
The agreement calls for a 65-percent stake in the team, including the 12 percent of minority owner Bob Hernreich, to be sold for an estimated $340 million to Hansen’s group, which also includes Microsoft billionaire Steve Ballmer. The franchise was valued at $525 million in the sales agreement.
Johnson said he’s working hard to come up with a fair and competitive offer to match or come close to matching what was put forward by the Seattle group but admitted “time is ticking.”
However, he said Tuesday’s announcement was to highlight the response he received from local community members.
“In three days we got 19 people to come in at a million dollars in our community,” he said. “They are coming in as as act of faith. That is powerful. Isn’t that the Sacramento story? Isn’t that who we are as a community? As long as there’s time on the clock, our community always finds a way to stand up for itself.”
One of the local investors who spoke Tuesday was David Taylor, the developer in the $391 million downtown arena deal that the Maloofs walked away from last year after a handshake agreement with the city. Taylor said the Maloofs deserved praise for some of the good things they’ve done as owners of the Kings.
“While I wish them well, I wish they’d sell it to us, and I think they will,” he said.
Johnson’s “Play to Win” strategy includes four points: bringing forward a local ownership group, identifying a major equity investor, making a commitment to new arena, and highlighting the strength of the Sacramento regional market.
However, he has admitted doing all of those things and presenting a strong case to the NBA Board of Governors in April is still no guarantee of keeping the team.
The new owners would move the team to Seattle and play two seasons in KeyArena, the former home of the Seattle SuperSonics, while a new arena is being built in downtown Seattle. New owners moved the Sonics to Oklahoma City after the 2008 season.
Johnson, a former NBA All-Star point guard, praised the fans of Seattle Tuesday but warned them “not to celebrate too early.”
“They deserve an NBA team at some point – just not ours,” he said.