Speaking to a large contingent of fans and press gathered at City Hall Tuesday afternoon, Johnson introduced the faces of a local ownership group willing to throw their hat into the ring in the battle to keep the Kings.
“We have been great partners with the NBA,” Johnson said, flanked by business and political leaders and fans who stood with him. “And we have done what any community should do to keep this team here and certainly we are going to continue to build on that.”
While “whale watching” for the major-equity investors continues, Johnson has received 20 pledges for a million dollars each from a diverse, potential local group.
“It’s really about the local community stepping forward and that’s what we are committed to do today and that’s what we’re going to talk a little bit about,” Johnson said.
These individuals aren’t exactly the $341 million he needs to match the offer from the Seattle group led by Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer. But it is a start and a strong regional show of commitment.
“It’s about folks here who realize that the Sacramento Kings are a civic asset for our community,” Johnson said of today’s announcement. “The Kings have helped shape and brand our entire region. The entire Sacramento region, not just the City of Sacramento.”
According to Johnson, he started with a goal to raise three to five million dollars through local outreach. But in three days time, he had 19 businesspeople with Sacramento ties willing to commit a million dollars each.
“Isn’t that the Sacramento story?” Johnson asked over cheers from the crowd. “Isn’t that who we are as a community? We’ve been here before. Our backs have been against the wall. They’ve told us it wasn’t going to happen. But each and every step along the way, as long as there is time on the clock, our community always finds a way to stand up for itself.”
One of those local buyers gave his own impassioned speech on the Kings importance to Sacramento.
“I’m doing this for one reason,” commercial real estate developer Phil Oates told the audience. “It’s time to fight. Somebody wants something that I own. It’s mine! And I’m not giving it up easily.”
Johnson understands the clock is ticking and that a local group is only part of the overall puzzle. Johnson was clear to say that he is working on the right venture capital group to pair with this set of local owners and that person will be revealed as soon possible.
Momentum is still squarely in Seattle’s favor at this point, but don’t count out Sacramento just yet, according to Johnson.
“I wanna say this for the folks in Seattle,” the mayor said. “When I played in the NBA for 12 years, Seattle had some of the best fans in all the NBA and no different than Sacramento – incredible fans. When they lost their team a couple years ago, it was devastating to me because those fans fought like crazy. They were rowdy, but they cheered on the home team. And I strongly believe, they do deserve an NBA team at some point.
“Just not ours,” added Johnson.
Here is the list of 17 names released by Johnson this afternoon. There are two other partners who have wished to remain anonymous. Johnson spoke with a 20th partner after the press conference.
- Dr. Nate Allen – MD
- Steve Ayers – Elks Tower and Rail Bridge Cellars Winery
- Dale Carlsen – Sleep Train Mattress Center
- Doren Dominguez – Vanir Group of Compaines
- Michael and Ken Fahn – Investor and Developer
- Brad Jenkins – 01 Communications
- Larry Kelley – Stanford Ranch I
- Rob Miller – PeopleFinders
- Kevin Nagle – Town Center
- Phil Oates – Buzz Oates Group
- Mark Otero – KlickNation
- Scott Powell – Sacramento Jet Center
- Dr. Aaron Reeves – Kid’s Dental Care
- John Stone – Positive Coaching Alliance
- David Taylor – David S. Taylor Interests
- Angelos and Kyriakos Tsakopolous – AKT Development
- Ali Youssefi – CFY Development