Kevin Johnson outside Shiekh shoe store at the Downtown Plaza. (Photo: Jonathan Santiago)

Once at the forefront of Sacramento’s effort to keep the Kings, Ron Burkle is now no longer part of the bid to purchase the team and build a downtown arena.  Instead, the supermarket magnate will now focus on “economic development” surrounding the Downtown Plaza according to Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson.

The news was first reported by Dale Kasler and Ryan Lills of the Sacramento Bee.

Burkle’s withdrawal from the bid stems from a conflict of interest.  The 60-year-old billionaire owns Relativity Media, a music, film and sports business company based out of Los Angeles.  Relativity’s sports department specializes in management and representation for a number of active NBA players, including Amar’e Stoudemire and the Kings’ own DeMarcus Cousins.

Speaking at a press event at the Downtown Plaza this afternoon, Johnson stated that Burkle’s changing role has no effect on the structure of the deal to build a new arena at the mall.

“We knew that this was flagged early,” Johnson said.  ”We were trying to work our way through it in New York when we spoke to the NBA owners.  We addressed this issue.  They felt very comfortable with our answer.

“One of the issues was if Ron could stay in – great, we’ll move forward,” he continued.  ”If he can’t, then Vivek (Ranadivé) is going to lead that charge both on team and the arena and we won’t miss a beat.  And they were comfortable with that.”

Two weeks ago, city council voted 7-2 in favor of a non-binding term sheet outlining a plan to build a new arena at the Downtown Plaza.  The mayor suggested that Burkle’s experience developing CONSOL Energy Center, the arena that houses the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins, could still be utilized by the capital city in an advisory role.

“Ron is committed to Sacramento,” Johnson said.  ”And he’s committed with all of his resources, his infrastructure and his expertise to share that with the ownership group to make sure the arena is successful.”

With Burkle’s participation diminishing, the Jacobs family of technology giant Qualcomm is expected to have an expanded role in the group of major investors attempting to buy the Kings.  The mayor also said that Ranadivé was in Sacramento today meeting with the group of 20-plus local investors committed to the city’s effort.  Johnson plans to update the public on the structure of the ownership group within the next few days.

“I think we’re very comfortable,” Johnson said.  ”Again, we already defined the roles to a certain extent last week when we were in New York in a way the ownership and commissioner felt comfortable with our answer.  I think what we’re trying to do now is bring the local owners together and see what role they can play.”

Johnson also announced today that FILA would be donating $25,000 to Think Big Sacramento, which would be used for “fan experiences” in the Sacramento community.  The sportswear and apparel company is planning to use proceeds from the 2014 re-release of the mayor’s KJ7 shoes, which Johnson wore during his playing days in Phoenix, to fund their contribution to the arena task force.

“This really is bigger than FILA and really bigger than Mayor Johnson,” said Mike Zinn of FILA at today’s press gathering. “It’s really about the the city of Sacramento and what you all are involved in right now.  So as what the mayor mentioned, in lieu of royalties to him specifically, we are donating the $25,000 to the Sacramento public policy foundation and that is our way of supporting not only the city, but your efforts with the Kings.”

Think Big and FILA are also partnering on a contest, asking fans to submit a one-minute video detailing why they think the Kings should stay in Sacramento.  More information can be found at the Think Big website.