The bid to keep the Kings in Sacramento suffered a blow Monday when the biggest name in the investor group, Ron Burkle, a California billionaire and part-owner of the NHL Pittsburgh Penguins, abruptly dropped out of project, citing a conflict of interest.
Mayor Kevin Johnson was quick to claim it was not a problem, according to the Sacramento Bee.
“It won’t slow us up,” Johnson said at a news conference at Downtown Plaza, site of the proposed arena on which Burkle on was supposed to take the lead.”We’re comfortable where we are.”
Johnson said some NBA executives last week expressed concern that Burkle faced a potential conflict of interest. He is part owner of a company that manages pro athletes’ careers. The company, Relativity Sports, manages multiple NBA players, including Amare Stoudemire of the New York Knicks and John Wall of the Washington Wizards. NBA spokesman Mike Bass confirmed that because of his Relativity holdings, Burkle has removed himself from the ownership group.
Johnson said Burkle will not invest in the arena or team, but will develop real estate around the project with hotel and office space around the arena.
How Burkle’s plans advanced so far with the conflict arising earlier was not made clear.
Burkle was expected to have been a smaller partner in the ownership group, which still includes majority partner Vivek Ranadive, Mark Mastrov and the Jacobs family of San Diego. But Burkle’s arena-building experience was believed to have been a big asset.
In 1999, he helped Mario Lemieux assume control of the Pittsburgh Penguins and pull the struggling franchise out of bakruptcy. He also negotiated the deal for the team’s CONSOL Energy Center, which opened in 2010.