California billionaire owner Ron Burkle met with NBA commissioner David Stern and is interested in purchasing the Sacramento Kings, according to USA Today‘s Sam Amick.
Though the Maloof family, the team’s current owners, agreed to sell the Kings to a Seattle-based group earlier this week, the deal has yet to be approved by the league’s Board of Governors. Burkle, a supermarket mogul and part owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins, hopes to keep the team in Sacramento and is planning a competing bid, according to the report.
The goal all along from the Sacramento side has been to force the NBA into a tough decision by putting together an arena plan and a bid that’s competitive with the Hansen-Ballmer group.
Hedge fund manager Chris Hansen and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer bought 65 percent of the team for about $341 million on Monday, leading many to believe that the team was headed for Seattle. The Supersonics moved to Oklahoma City and became the Thunder in 2008 after a 42-year stint in the city.
Stern has had consistent communication with Sacramento mayor and former NBA point guard Kevin Johnson during this situation, but his decision to grant Burkle a meeting is seen by Johnson’s camp as the latest sign that — despite the widely held belief the team will wind up in Seattle — their effort is being legitimized by the league. The meeting, according to one of the people with knowledge of the situation, lasted approximately two hours and took place inside the NBA’s offices. Stern has already indicated publicly that he will allow Johnson to make his case to the Board of Governors before they decide on the Seattle bid.