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Sacramento ‘whale’ watch: Fitness magnate meets with Kings investors, mayor

Sacramento Kings fan Robert Robbins holds a poster of Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson before the Kings NBA basketball game. Johnson has been spearheading efforts to keep the team from being sold to a group from Seattle who plan to move the team to that city. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

There are more signs deep-pocketed investors are getting behind Sacramento’s efforts to stop the sale of the Sacramento Kings to Chris Hansen, after fitness magnate Mark Mastrov met Monday with local business leaders and Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson.

Mastrov, the founder of 24 Hour Fitness, gathered Monday with the business leaders who each committed $1 million to help buy the team, the Sacramento Bee reported.

Mastrov is reportedly in serious talks with billionaire Ron Burkle to partner on a bid to buy the Kings and build a new downtown arena to keep the team from moving to Seattle.

Burkle, co-owner of the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins, met last week with NBA Commissioner David Stern in New York, numerous sources said. He also reportedly met with Johnson.

Mastrov reportedly lost out in a 2010 bid to buy the NBA’s Golden State Warriors.

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson said last week he expects to introduce several major equity partners to lead the effort to purchase the Kings from the Maloof family. The NBA has promised he can present a counter-offer at the league’s Board of Governors meeting in April.

NBA insider Kevin Pelton with ESPN tells the Luke Burbank Show anyone who thinks they know what’s going to happen is simply guessing, because the league owners can ultimately do whatever they want.

“It’s fundamentally the right of sports leagues, they’ve they’ve maintained they’ve been able to approve or turn down offers for other teams within the league.” In other words, even if Hansen has an exclusive deal with the Maloofs, the owners can veto it.

Pelton says it’s an essentially unprecedented situation, and predicting an outcome is impossible because although the league has been historically reluctant to block a sale unless finances are an issue, it’s also reluctant to have franchises move (excluding Seattle, where the city refused to fund a new arena.)

Ultimately, Pelton says he wouldn’t be surprised to see the matter end up in court, with Hansen potentially suing Sacramento for interfering with a legally binding contract.

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