With the fate of the Sacramento Kings seemingly changing by the hour, potential buyers who want to keep the team in Sacramento are emerging.
Mark Mastrov, the founder of 24-hour Fitness, told The Bee on Friday that he has assembled a group that wants to buy the team and keep them in Sacramento. The group also wants to “work with the city to get an arena deal if possible.”
“There’s definitely interest,” he said, as reports swirled that the Maloof family had already made a deal to sell the team to a Seattle group. “We’ve been in touch with the Maloofs.”
Mastrov said that Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson is aware of his interest in buying the team and that he’s been focused on purchasing the Kings “for a long time.”
The Kings organization had no comment on a tweet this morning by a Comcast Sports NBA analyst that it had already made a deal to sell the team for $525 million to a Seattle group led by hedge-fund manager Chris Hansen. A representative for Hansen in Seattle could not be reached for comment.
The NBA’s Board of Governors would have to approve any sale or relocation proposal.
Johnson has mentioned billionaire supermarket tycoon Ron Burkle as one contender to buy the team and keep it in Sacramento, but a source said other groups loomed as possibilities.
Thursday evening, NBA commissioner David Stern said it would be reasonable to give Burkle a chance to match Hansen’s offer.
Sources have told The Bee as recently as Thursday that the owners of the franchise – the Maloof family – still had not received a formal offer for the team.
Richard Benvenuti, a limited partner in the franchise, said Friday morning he had not been told of a sale.
“We haven’t heard anything about it,” Benvenuti said. His family owns 15 percent of the team.
If the team is sold and the deal is approved by NBA owners, the Kings would move to Seattle next season. The team would play at KeyArena for two years and then move into a new arena.
Hansen’s group, which includes Microsoft executive Steve Ballmer and members of the Nordstrom family, has a tentative deal with the city and King County to build a $490 million arena south of downtown.
Until this week, the Maloofs have insisted the team is not for sale. But sources say they’ve warmed up to the idea of selling the financially troubled franchise.