The mayor of Sacramento says a number of deep-pocketed potential investors are expressing serious interest in helping form a group to buy the Kings and keep them in Sacramento.
Mayor Kevin Johnson told a news conference Wednesday afternoon he's been contacted by "more than two" people or groups who might want to buy the Kings and build a new downtown arena. He wouldn't offer details and said he hopes to announce who they are sometime next week.
"We have had serious discussions and we're making considerable progress but I do want to respect the nature of those discussion and not really get into that at this particular time," said Johnson.
Multiple reports surfaced overnight Wednesday that Ron Burkle, the billionaire owner of the NHL's Pittsburgh Penguins, and 24 Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov were seriously interested in partnering to help buy the Kings.
Johnson said a number of unnamed business people indicate the city can support a new downtown arena even without an NBA franchise, which reinforces his argument the city is a strong home for the league and strengthens a potential counter offer he said would be "competitive" with the $525 million deal already in place to sell a majority stake in the team to Chris Hansen and his Seattle investors.
Johnson pointed out the NBA recently approved the sale of the Golden State Warriors to businessman Joe Lacob, even though he was outbid by Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, because the league determined he was the best fit.
"There's reason to believe the deepest pockets don't always end up the winning bidder."
Johnson said he plans to speak with NBA Commissioner David Stern Thursday to update him on the status of Sacramento's efforts to field a new ownership group and keep the Kings.
"We know we have to be fair and competitive. When you look a the deal structure, there's so many dollars and things that may or may not be included we just don't know that yet," Johnson said.