Phil Oates speaks at the unveiling of the Kings' local investors back in January. (Photo: Jonathan Santiago)

Following the announcement of the Seattle deal, they were first to step up publicly in the effort to keep the Kings in Sacramento.  Now a group of local investors is seeing its role change in the capital city’s fight to retain its only major pro franchise.

The group of 20-plus local investors assembled by mayor Kevin Johnson back in January is now part of the major bid led by Vivek Ranadivé to purchase the team from the Maloofs.

“We are now part of the general partnership,” said real estate executive Phil Oates, one of the investors pledging $1 million each in the effort to buy the Kings. “The percentages still have to be worked out.  But we share, on a much smaller level, in their (the major equity investor’s) profits.”

Oates and the other local business people met yesterday with Ranadivé, who was in Sacramento.  The prospective Kings owner assured them of his commitment to their partnership.

“Just one of first questions was how does the local ownership fit in and he answered that,” Oates said outside of city hall chambers today.  ”We’re gonna be (partnering) with him.  We win, he wins.  And he thinks it can be profitable.  It’s not gonna be a heavy negative cash flow and we believe him.”

The mayor originally intended for the two dozen or so businesspeople with Sacramento ties to bid on minority owner Bob Cook’s 7-percent stake currently sitting in bankruptcy.  However, Kings limited partner Dave Lucchetti appears to be handling that venture on his own on behalf of the mayor’s team.  Last week, Lucchetti exercised his right of first refusal and intends to match the bid on the limited stake submitted by potential Seattle SuperSonics owner Chris Hansen.

The ownership group hoping to buy the Kings and develop a new downtown arena has undergone a significant facelift over the last few weeks.  Two major changes were announced within the last 24 hours - the addition of Sacramento developer Mark Friedman to the group and the diminishing role of supermarket magnate Ron Burkle.

The evolving nature of the ownership team has not phased the NBA’s view of the Sacramento bid according to the mayor.

“They were just fascinated by how the local community really stepped up,” Johnson told reporters today.  ”So when Vivek was here yesterday, he met with the local owners, he met with Mark (Friedman). And what we’re trying to figure out right now is what is everybody’s role in this equation, which is kind of fun.”