Report: Potential Sacramento arena operator AEG draws interest from Ron Burkle

One of the “whales” Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson has been chasing is in the running to make another deal that could impact the Kings future in Sacramento.  As first reported by Billboard Business, billionaire Ron Burkle is among the finalists to buy AEG, which has been up for sale since last September.

Sources tell Billboard.biz that the final three bidders on Anshutz Entertainment Group (AEG) are a group made up of Ron Burkle with Patrick Soon-Shiong and Goldman Sachs; Guggenheim Partners; and ColonyCapital and Qatar Sovereign Fund. A deal could be done as soon as the end of March.

However, a third source familiar with the process says the bidders have not partnered up and yet another round of bids is still to come, and no short-list existst yet.

The entertainment company recently reaffirmed its commitment to the capital city’s effort to keep the Kings.  Last month, AEG CEO Tim Leiweke told media at a showing of the Stanley Cup at the state capitol that his company hasn’t changed its position on Sacramento.  The terms of the original deal called for AEG to contribute roughly $60 million to the proposed $400-million arena – one of their largest investments to a stadium project anywhere in the world.

AEG, the city of Sacramento and the NBA were all in agreement last year to build a new entertainment and sports complex that the Kings would call home.  The Maloofs, who were initially on board with the deal, backed out of the plan in April.

AEG also has business interests in Seattle, the potential landing spot for the Kings.  Following the SuperSonics departure from the Emerald City in 2008, the arena-management giant agreed to take over operations for KeyArena.  The agreement, which called for AEG to handle sponsorships, advertising, premium seat sales and event operations, was a one-year deal with the preference to extend that partnership for another six years.  That option was exercised and AEG’s contract to operate KeyArena ends in 2015.

Burkle, meanwhile, is in serious discussions to partner on the city’s bid to keep the Kings with fitness magnate Mark Mastrov.  No announcement on Sacramento’s major equity investors is planned at this time.

Jonathan Santiago contributed to this post.

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