By Sam Amick
USA TODAY Sports
SACRAMENTO, CA - As Sacramento officials continue to prepare a counter-offer to keep the Kings from being sold to the Seattle-based group led by hedge fund manager Chris Hansen and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, it appears they they have their money men.
According to a person with knowledge of the situation, 24-Hour Fitness Founder Mark Mastrov and billionaire Ron Burkle - who is part owner of the NHL's Pittsburgh Penguins - are in serious talks to collaborate on a bid to buy the Kings. The person spoke to USA TODAY Sports on condition of anonymity because of the private nature of the talks. The fact that the two men are willing to join forces is seen as significant by Sacramento supporters. There are five potential owners currently in play, but Mastrov and Burkle are seen as the heaviest hitters among that group.
Burkle is known to be focused on the arena plan that is unfolding at Sacramento's downtown plaza, where the property's new owners, JMA Ventures, have shown an interest in partnering with prospective owners of the Kings on the project.
The Maloof family that has a 53 percent majority interest and minority owner Bob Hernreich have reached an agreement with the Hansen-Ballmer group that must be approved by the NBA's Board of Governor's, with the deal set to pay them approximately $341 million for 65 percent of the team (a $525 million valuation). But Sacramento mayor and former NBA point guard Kevin Johson has been told by commissioner David Stern that he still has a chance to save his team if he can provide the funds to compete with the Seattle offer as well as a viable arena plan and present both to the Board of Governors.
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