Sonics update: NHL owner and fitness guru to challenge Seattle’s NBA bid

Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson at today’s address.

In his annual State of the City address, Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson named two equity investors as part of the fight to keep the Sacramento Kings in town.

24-Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov and Rob Burkle, co-owner of the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins, are the two investors. Mastrov will lead the bid to buy the team from the Maloof family — the current owners — while Burkle is the driving force behind a new downtown arena.

For the past two weeks, both names had been rumored as potential investors. Mastrov is set to submit a plan to the NBA Friday to keep the Kings in Sacramento.

“With all do respect to Seattle — and I absolutely do wish them well and that they get a team some day — let me perfectly crystal clear: It is not going to be this team,” Johnson said of the Kings. “No way.”

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, along with investor Chris Hansen, is leading a Seattle group that reached an agreement with the Maloof family in January to buy 65 percent of the Kings for a reported $341 million. NBA Commissioner David Stern had given Johnson until tomorrow to come up with an ownership group that would counter the Hansen/Ballmer offer and convince the NBA to keep the Kings in Sacramento.

NBA officials are expected to vote on the sale at its annual meeting in New York April 18-19. Hansen and Ballmer need a three-quarters supermajority approval from the board.

At this point, it would take some serious work for Johnson to keep the Kings in town. See what Seattle radio host Mitch Levy Tweeted:

Mastrov’s net worth is reported to be around $350 million. That’s less than the current $525 million valuation on the team and pales in comparison to Ballmer, who’s worth $13.9 billion. Ron Burkle, meanwhile, is worth $3.2 billion, but he’s leading the arena charge, not the bid to buy the team.

Johnson also announced that the Sacramento corporate community has pledged $50 million annually for the first five seasons in the new arena. And like he said last month, Johnson repeated that 20 local community leaders have committed $1 million to keep the team in Sacramento and buy the 7 percent that’s currently in bankruptcy. 

The mayor also announced that the new owners want to bring back the WNBA Monarchs, which left Sacramento in 2009.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. (Microsoft photo)

Earlier this week, the Sacramento City Council authorized staff to begin formal negotiations to finance an arena deal with investors.

Sources confirmed Wednesday that current Kings co-owner Joe Maloof and his family received a $30 million, nonrefundable down payment on the team from the Hansen group.

In terms of Ballmer’s involvement with all this, reports came out in June that the Microsoft CEO was part of the investment group with Hansen. It’s not surprising: Ballmer was a regular at Sonics games before the team departed for Oklahoma City in 2008 and also was part of another investment group that tried to keep the team here. Seattle has been without a team since then.

Last month, in what was clearly a grandstanding move, California Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinburg sent a letter to the California Department of General Services, citing Ballmer’s involvement in the Kings deal and asking for details of Microsoft’s contracts with the state.

Previously on GeekWire: Microsoft to Sacramento: Don’t blame us for taking your NBA team

  • Guest

    The Sonics are ours. Sacramento, thanks for keeping them warm for us.

    • guest

      Huh? There are no Sonics in Sacramento. The real Sonics went to OK city not Sacramento. Sure we can steal the Kings and change the name but it’s not the same team. They claim Seattle gets to keep the history of the Sonics. So in this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=prztPTPGJ6k the Sonics are playing the Sonics, right?

      • Guest

        No, in this video the new-Sonics (former Sacramento Kings) are playing the Oklahoma City Thunder (former Seattle Sonics, but their history stays here).

        I’m sorry you find this confusing, but the Kings are ours now. Their history can stay in Sacramento. Our history shall grow.

  • Guest

    ^ you did such a great job keeping your team last time.

  • Chung

    Cunt

  • http://www.facebook.com/dschlicker Derek Schlicker

    I know you guys really like to show the folks over in Redmond how much you’re on the MSFT bandwagon, but everything I’ve seen and heard so far is that Chris Hansen is the driving force behind this. He definitely seems to be the brains behind the operation. I don’t consider being an investor in a group to equate the same as “leading the charge” to get the Sonics back, no matter how many times you used to see Balmer dancing around at the Key.

  • Guest

    We are going to be sad either way…
    a> We don’t get the Sonics and we’ll be sad we don’t have an NBA team when we watch the NBA playoffs, etc on TV
    b> We get the Sonics and we’ll be sad when they keep losing to all the top teams
    and life will go on…

  • Holly

    Seattle couldn’t keep an NBA Team. Where were these guys back them?
    The Kings are staying in Sacramento!
    Go home Seattle, leave us alone!