By Steve Large

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – During Thursday’s State of the City address, Mayor Kevin Johnson officially named — after months of speculation — his rumored “whale” investors who hope to buy the Kings and keep them in Sacramento.

However, Johnson was very short on specifics in his speech. He gave virtually no details on the offer that will be submitted to the NBA.

Wearing Sacramento Kings colors, the mayor hit the stage at Memorial Auditorium with a little showmanship by baring his purple and white striped sleeves and sending a message to Seattle investors trying to bring back an NBA franchise to their city.

“Let me be perfectly clear. I said, let me be perfectly crystal clear, it is not going to be this team,” Johnson said.

The mayor’s long-awaited announcement of equity partners came 40 minutes into his speech. They were the rumored names Kings fans had been waiting for.

“On the equity partner side, Mark Mastrov has stepped up,” Johnson announced. “Today, I am proud to announce another significant partner ready to help bring that vision to life, Ron Burkle.”

After the speech, the mayor stepped outside to explain to reporters how the pair is working together.

“What they ended up doing is that Mark Mastrov is gonna be the lead on the team and that was very clear. That’s where his passion lies,” said Johnson. “And Ron wanted to be the lead on the arena side and that makes sense.”

It was a night the mayor needed to deliver in what will likely be his final opportunity to keep the Kings in town.

“This is about building a winning franchise for a winning community. Sacramento has proven time and time again to be a great NBA market. As a longtime resident of Northern California with deep ties to Sacramento, I am thrilled to be a part of an effort to do something special for the region,” a statement from Mastrov read.

Burkle also released a statement regarding the mayor’s announcement: “I am excited about the economic possibilities for the arena and for downtown Sacramento as a whole. We have an opportunity to transform downtown into a vibrant hub of economic and cultural activity that will create jobs and generate a positive economic impact for years to come.”

The mayor also surprised many by naming former King and NBA all-star guard Mitch Richmond as an investor.

He’s no “whale,” but he was a whale of a player during the Kings’ glory days. His jersey was the first to hang from the rafters at then-named Arco Arena.

Richmond is one of 20 local investors pledging $1 million each to try and buy the 7 percent share of the team held up in bankruptcy court.

“One of those folks who wanted to remain anonymous until tonight as part of that 20 is your very own Mitch Richmond,” Johnson announced to a cheering crowd.

The NBA Hall of Fame nominee gave no hint of his plan to jump in when CBS13 ran into him during the NBA All-Star Weekend in Houston.

“Hopefully Sacramento will continue to keep their team, and I’m looking forward to that too,” Richmond told CBS13 in Houston.

“We think it’s great that he’s coming back supporting his former team,” said one fan.

“It’ll help getting ex-NBA players — will definitely help because he was one of the most well-known during his time,” said another.

Here are some key dates moving forward:
March 1: Mastrov bid will be submitted.
March 24: The second “Here We Buy” game.
April 17: Kings take on the Clippers in their last home game.
April 19: The NBA Board of Governors meets in New York City to decide the fate of the Kings.


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