Mark Mastrov’s offer to purchase and keep the Kings in Sacramento needs some tweaking according to David Stern. However, the NBA commissioner expects and is hopeful that the bid’s shortfall will be addressed by the time it reaches the hands of the NBA’s Board of Governors.
“There’s an ongoing dialogue,” Stern said in Oakland before Friday’s match-up between the Warriors and Rockets. “There’s a substantial variance. I have an expectation, a hope that the variance will be eliminated by the time the owners get to consider it.”
The commissioner has scheduled a special April 3rd meeting in New York with the league’s relocation and finance committees. They will discuss and hash out the offers on the table for Sacramento’s only major pro franchise.
Though the Maloofs have an agreement in place to sell the team to a group of Seattle-based investors, the NBA will have final say on where the franchise plays next year. Stern made clear that he’s “spent a fair number of years to establish that power and prerogative within the Board of Governors”.
“If an ownership group has decided to exit our league, it doesn’t retain the ultimate right to tell us where the team will be located,” Stern said. “It’s for the Board of Governors to decide.”
Mastrov, founder of the 24 Hour Fitness chain, is one half of an ownership group assembled by Kevin Johnson to buy the Kings and keep them in Sacramento. He is confident that he can up the ante to meet the standards of the NBA’s relocation and finance committees.
“It’s a long process,” Mastrov said from his courtside seat Friday night at Oracle Arena. “We’re in it to win. We’re working really hard. We got in the game late, but we’re pumping away. We’ll continue to talk with the NBA and get our offer to where it needs to be.”
Mastrov is partnering with supermarket magnate Ron Burkle on Johnson’s ambitious effort. When asked, he didn’t go into detail on what percentage, if any, Burkle will own of the team. He also remained guarded when questioned about the arrangement between them to finance the private portion of the downtown arena plan.
“There’s a lot of work that needs to be done there,” Mastrov told Cowbell Kingdom. “But Ron’s got a lot of experience around the stadium side having done one in Pittsburgh. He’s doing a great job.”
Meanwhile in Sacramento, mayor Johnson attended the Kings’ 121-112 victory over the Phoenix Suns. Briefed on the commissioner’s comments in Oakland about the Mastrov bid, the mayor went on to express his confidence in the offer.
“Now all the negotiations that need to take place between now and then, I can’t tell you what those are,” Johnson told reporters at Sleep Train Arena. “I don’t know. That’s what the Mastrov team is going to have to do with the Maloofs. And we know where the bar is set with the Hansen group and we respect that, but we’re committed to winning.”
How much Mastrov offered for the team is unknown. The Seattle group led by San Francisco hedge fund manager Chris Hansen and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has a deal to purchase 65 percent of the Kings. Their offer is valued approximately at $341 million.
As part of the deal, the Hansen/Ballmer group has made a $30 million, non-refundable deposit to the Maloofs. Stern, however, squashed any notion that the down payment would factor into deciding the fate of the franchise.
“It’s okay for them to set up processes,” Stern said of the arrangement between the Maloofs and the Hansen/Ballmer group. “But the ultimate process will be decided by the board. And I would like to see on behalf of the board whether there is a credible option in Sacramento and then it will be put in front of the board.”
Stern also confirmed that he’s spoken to Kings minority owner John Kehriotis about Sacramento’s other bid to keep the team. Along with Kehriotis, Burkle/Mastrov and Hansen/Ballmer, the commissioner seemed to suggest that there are additional offers being considered for the team.
“It’s very fluid and we’re very open,” said Stern, who briefly exchanged pleasantries with Mastrov during halftime of the Rockets’ 94-88 win over the Warriors. “And I think that by setting the April 3rd date, we have (been) inviting prospective bidders if they have something to talk to us about. That’s designed to move the process along.”
LISTEN: David Stern’s entire press conference from Oakland
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WATCH: Kevin Johnson addresses Stern’s comments from Sacramento
James Ham also contributed to this report.