SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – Los Angeles-based billionaire Ron Burkle met with NBA Commissioner David Stern in New York on Thursday about his interest in buying the Kings, CBS13 confirmed Friday.
Burkle, part owner of the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins, has long been speculated as one of the “whale” investors Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson has been referring to in trying to line up an offer to compete with the one the Maloofs have agreed to with a Seattle group that intends to move the Kings there.
The specifics of Burkle’s meeting with Stern have not been disclosed, but USA Today and former Sacramento Bee reporter Sam Amick reported Friday that Burkle expressed to Stern his interest in the Downtown Plaza as the site for a new downtown arena. The rail yards was the proposed site for a new $391 million facility last year in a deal the Maloofs walked away from, saying it didn’t make sense for them.
“Well what was really significant was the meeting lasted for two hours,” minority Kings owner Bob Cook said.
Friday’s Kings game at Sleep Train Arena could feature the former and future Seattle SuperSonics. The Sonics relocated to Oklahoma City in 2008 and changed their name to the Thunder.
There was no response from Mayor Kevin Johnson to our questions as he walked away from CBS13 cameras through a corridor inside Sleep Train Arena.
Cook was also in attendance at Friday night’s game, and is rooting for the team to stay.
He hasn’t talked to the Maloofs since they announced a deal to sell the Kings to Seattle investors.
“It was about three weeks ago and trying to set up a meeting to discuss a number of things,” said Cook.
Cook says the meetings were canceled, likely because the Maloofs were in Seattle. However, he calls the Maloofs’ ability to drive the value of the team up to $525 Million masterful.
If the NBA Board of Governors approves the sale to the Seattle group backed by hedge-fund investor Chris Hansen and Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer, the team would reclaim the Sonics nickname and play in their old home, KeyArena, while a new building is built in downtown Seattle.