New Sacramento minority investor once pursued ownership of New Orleans Hornets

The newest deep pocketed investor in Vivek Ranadivé’s effort to purchase the Sacramento Kings has been here before.

Raj Bhathal, introduced yesterday by Ranadivé following yesterday’s relocation vote, made his own attempt to purchase an NBA team not too long ago.  Bhathal once led a group that was considered a frontrunner to purchase the New Orleans Hornets last year.

According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the Los Angeles-based businessman teamed with Larry J. Benson, the brother of current Hornets owner Tom Benson, on a deal to buy the Louisiana franchise.  Bhathal’s team also included former NBA coach Mike Dunleavy Sr., who reportedly tipped off negotiations with the NBA on the ownership group’s behalf.

The league, which had owned the team for two seasons after purchasing it from George Shinn, eventually chose to sell to Tom Benson rather Bhathal and another group led by former Hornets minority owner Gary Chouest.

Bhathal accompanied Ranadivé, fellow investor Mark Friedman and Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson to Wednesday’s meetings in Dallas.  The Sacramento group was reportedly not seeking additional investors, but Ranadivé suggested that they accomdated Bhathal’s involvement by reducing “existing people so we could make room for new money.”

“We have this concept in Silicon Valley we call it smart money,” Ranadivé said  following yesterday’s decision by the NBA in Dallas.  “So you have money from many places, but I’ve always wanted to surround myself with people that are way smarter than me.  So we have actually taken some new money.”

Bhathal brings the cache of another face familiar to the NBA and the Indian market.  The 71-year-old businessman originally immigrated to the United States from India in the early 1960s and started what has become one of the U.S.’s largest swimwear manufacturing companies.

“You’ve probably heard me talk before about how I want to make this a global brand,” Ranadivé said. “And I believe the Asian economies are a big market.  And in order to achieve my vision, we call NBA 3.0, we need to go global.  And Raj is going to drive much of our international aspirations.”

Bhathal founded Tustin-based RAJ Manufacturing in 1968 with his wife Marta according to the Los Angeles Times.  Now retired, his company manufactures designs for popular companies such as Guess and Hurley.  He also once owned the Orlando Thunder of the now-defunct World League of American Football.


Jonathan Santiago
Jonathan Santiago serves Cowbell Kingdom as senior editor specializing in writing, podcasting and video production. He also handles the majority of CK’s day-to-day beat coverage of the Kings.

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