Tag: #herewestay


There they stay: Framework in place to keep Kings in Sacramento


Much regarding the basketball future of the Sacramento Kings remains up in the air, but this particular Monday brought an unequaled security to the franchise, its city, and the Kings’ legions of ardent fans. According to Sam Amick of SI.com, the Monday meeting held to discuss arena funding plans in Sacramento has produced the “framework of an agreement going forward,” per Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson. Amick also reported that the Maloof family will initially contribute more than $70 million to the aforementioned funding plan, in addition to further financial contributions throughout the life of the deal.

We’re beyond the point of dissecting what sports teams mean to fans on a personal level, to communities on a collective level, and to cities on an economic level. This is a huge, huge day for every person involved in each of those tiers — from the die-hard who won’t be able to wipe that smile off of their face for the next week to the business owner who created a model dependent on the ripple benefits that having a nearby NBA team provides. This development puts the city of Seattle that much further from getting the NBA team it deserves, but in the process prevents Sacramento from becoming the next Seattle — maligned by the swift exit of their cherished club and sadly jaded by having loved and lost.

There are still countless steps between Point A and Point B, but the important thing is that Point A exists at all. The Kings’ future in Sacramento was in serious jeopardy just a few months ago, but Johnson, the Maloofs, NBA commissioner David Stern, a fervent social media campaign, and the efforts of an entire city have further rooted the Kings in the city they call home.

Kings Arena Update: Kevin Johnson working with Ron Burkle’s right hand man

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The Sacramento Kings arena saga took an interesting turn on Wednesday when it was announced that the Maloof family had given up majority ownership of the Palms Casino after a “recapitalization agreement” with their main creditors, TPG Capital and Leonard Green and Partners. The deal reduces the Maloof’s ownership from about 80 percent to 10-20 percent, but the Maloofs will continue to operate the casino.

The recapitalization agreement doesn’t come out of nowhere, however, as Bloomberg News and many Las Vegas outlets reported in January that there was a strong chance that this would happen, though the Maloofs refused to acknowledge that they would sell or that the Palms was in trouble.

Meanwhile, on Monday, Mayor Kevin Johnson announced the identities of the 70-person Here We Build committee, named after the grassroots movements created by Blake Ellington of #HereWeStay, and modified into #HereWeBuild when local radio personality Carmichael Dave created a pledge drive for the ages.

And if you’re a fan of political and financial All Star teams, you probably want to stand in line to get your briefcase autographed.

Headlining the committee as co-chairs are California Senate President pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg and California State Senator Ted Gaines, though the big heavy hitters here include the guy whose feasibility study is being used as Sacramento’s blueprint, David Taylor, and political heavyweight Darius Anderson, who presented to the NBA Board of Governors back in April when the Maloofs applied their full court press to move the Kings down to Anaheim.

As for Taylor, his ICON Venue Group is partially owned by sports facility giant Anschultz Entertainment Group (AEG), who has the money and wherewithal to quickly implement a time-sensitive, politically driven arena project, though there have been no public statements made to the effect that they are on board in an official capacity for now.

Anderson’s inclusion is the largest elephant in the room, however, since he is a close advisor to none other than billionaire Ron Burkle, who was reportedly interested in buying the Kings back in April.

It was this interest that created the most quotable moment in the saga to date, when NBA insider Sam Amick reported that Commissioner David Stern made a wise crack saying K.J. was bringing him a “used car dealer,” but upon learning that the billionaire was interested in buying the Kings he grew quiet and then said, “You’ve got Burkle?”

Burkle was recently ranked No. 347 by Forbes among the world’s richest billionaires, and he built his empire in the grocery industry, parlaying several successful deals into a massive financial empire across many industries.

When the Maloofs were confronted with news of Burkle’s interest in buying the Kings at the NBA Board of Governors meetings in April (a move they claimed to have rebuffed a month earlier), they were outwardly angry and they insisted that their team was not for sale. Stern would eventually echo those sentiments by downplaying a potential purchase by Burkle, and since then Burkle’s name has fallen out of the Kings’ news cycle.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean he has stopped flirting with professional sports. Burkle, also a part owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins, has reportedly joined up with Dodger great Steve Garvey to form a group interested in purchasing the struggling Dodgers franchise. This follows his attempts to buy the Pittsburgh Pirates and Washington Nationals, and if you go back to 1999, his failed attempt to bring football to L.A. with, wait for it, AEG’s Tom Leiweke.

Incidentally (or not), AEG attempted to lure Burkle’s Penguins from Pittsburgh to Kansas City, and after that failed, AEG would later help Kansas City pass a public-private ballot measure to build the now-thriving Sprint Center that returns the city significant revenue based solely on concerts and events.

And just when it appeared that Burkle was falling off the Kings’ radar, a May 18 report came out of Las Vegas from none other than Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous host Robin Leach, who wrote that Burkle “insists on re-entering the Las Vegas market.” After the company Burkle bought shares in, the Morgan Hotel Group (MHG), failed to turn around their struggling Hard Rock Café property – it was sold off to creditors in March, much to the chagrin of Burkle, apparently.

Afterward, Burkle upped his ownership stake in MHB to approximately 30 percent and installed his guy, Michael Gross, as CEO.

At least one investment banking group, Jeffries, believes they intend to grow the company rather than sell it. Leach, who may not appear on the outset to be the best source of financial news, has spent the last 10 years on the Las Vegas industry news beat, and goes on to write that Burkle and his Morgan Hotel Group have “been actively kicking the tires, examining facilities and asking tough questions of a hotel group (in Las Vegas) willing to sell off one of its properties.”

Wait. Didn’t the Maloofs just sell? Yes they did – to two separate private equity firms in Leonard Green and TPG Capital. TPG owns Caesars Entertainment and would theoretically take over the Palms, but Leonard Green has also been trying to buy up gambling entities while the gambling industry is bottoming out – so it’s still anybody’s guess what the end-game is over at the Palms.

Let’s be clear – Leonard Green isn’t Burkle, and Burkle isn’t Leonard Green, but maybe Burkle is Finkle and Einhorn is a man.

Leonard Green and Burkle’s investment firm, Yucaipa Companies, both bought large portions of the grocer Whole Foods in 2009. And in 1991, Burkle sold his Almac’s grocery stores to Leonard Green for $75 million. All the while, both have been extremely active investing funds for the California Public Employees Retirement System over the last two decades. Surely it’s possible that in the elite rungs of society, where the billionaires play Kevin Bacon’s Six Degrees of Separation game with themselves all the time, that any interaction between the two entities is purely coincidental.

But just to be sure, I may have to go down to the Palms this Wednesday when Burkle will reportedly be there to celebrate the NHL awards and ask him about it myself.

The Maloofs, for their part, are not publicly tipping their hand regarding the involvement of Darius Anderson. George Maloof recently told Dale Kasler (via Ryan Lillis) of the Sacramento Bee that Anderson’s involvement in the committee “doesn’t give me any thoughts or concerns.”

As for the state of the funding hunt taking place in Sacramento, the jury is still out whether the $400 million wiped off the books at the Palms will allow the Maloofs to bring more money to the table for a new Entertainment and Sports Complex (ESC), though that doesn’t mean they should have to. After all, as reported yesterday, Anaheim is going forward with improvements on the Honda Center and is welcoming the Kings with a shiny new credit card. Besides, it’s entirely possible the new financial flexibility could be funneled back into the Palms, though pumping up your newly divested asset with freed up funds doesn’t sound like ‘Plan A’ for cash-strapped NBA owners looking to fund an arena.

Regardless, the Maloofs have said that they would contribute toward funding the ESC, so this would appear on the surface to give them better flexibility in doing so.

The 70-person Here We Build committee, meanwhile, consists of every expert, partner, planner, lawyer, community leader, and politician that would be needed to complete an endeavor of such magnitude. According to a source close to the situation, the NBA has also “firmly planted their feet in Sacramento,” and has “sent their best lieutenants to work day and night to get an arena built.”

Numbers-wise, the commission has enlisted the services of at least three well-respected consultancies to review the economic impact of the undertaking, which according to well-placed sources will show enough tax revenue and job creation to not just justify the new Entertainment and Sports Center – but also give political cover to the various bodies that will need to approve the proposal.

What this means, the source says, is that the tenor of the discussion in Sacramento has changed from ‘we don’t want to pay for this’ to ‘we need to pay for this, as it may very well be the difference between economic revival and economic disaster.’ And while there will certainly be skeptics and opposition groups that may choose to latch onto the issue, they could be committing political suicide as the Here We Build committee continues to release positive economic findings.

What does it all mean? It’s hard to say anything definitive right now. But while Kevin Johnson orchestrates his regional dream team, the powerful triad of Darius Anderson, the ICON-David Taylor group, and the NBA are knee deep in the fight to keep the team in Sacramento. And whether or not AEG or Ron Burkle can come along for the ride, the amount of firepower in Sacramento right now is big news for Kings fans.

Update (Saturday, June 18, 2011): The Sacramento Bee reports that the Maloofs will own just two percent of the Palms, according to regulatory documents.  They could have the option to buy back a significant share, up to 20 percent, and in the meantime TPG and Leonard Green will each own a 49 percent of the company.

On the surface, this would strengthen the chance that the Maloofs are freeing up funds to contribute toward Sacramento’s proposed Entertainment and Sports Center.  As for TPG and Leonard Green, the fact that the pair would have matching 49 percent shares creates an interesting dynamic, whereby each company could have the same voting rights (with the Maloofs holding a tie-breaking vote).

Kings fans not going down without a fight to keep team

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The Kings move to Anaheim for next season is almost certain. There are details to be hammered out, approvals needed, but there is a lot of momentum.

But the fans of Sacramento are not giving up.

Through a twitter campaign — #herewebuild — started by local sports radio show host Carmichael Dave there are about half a million in pledges from local fans and businesses to keep the Kings in town and build a new stadium. That may be a drop in the bucket of money — the Kings are getting a $50 million loan from Anaheim and $25 million in refurbishments to the Honda Center — but that’s not what the movement was really about at its core.

Carmichael Dave spoke with Aaron Bruski at Rotoworld about the effort.

The goal was to fix the tenor of the conversation here locally in Sacramento, which was extremely negative, with the towel pretty much thrown in not just by our city council but by our mayor himself in many senses. A lot of negative publicity has turned over the last three, four, five days into positive publicity. We’ve been on the front page of the Sacramento Bee, we’ve been on every TV station here in town, numerous blogs, the New York Times, and with you guys – and instead of the focus being ‘the Kings are leaving, the Maloofs and the city council are fighting, and Sacramento’s going to be without a team in two weeks,’ it’s now turned to ‘well that still all may very well happen, but in the meantime the fans are speaking up and they’re putting their money where their mouths are and trying to make a difference.’

It’s a Hail Mary pass, it’s the bottom of the ninth, it’s the 15th round – whatever sports analogy you want to use. But we’re going down with a fight, which is a lot more different than things were going just a few days ago


Today there is a rally at City Hall as the HereWeBuild people try to shake up the powers that be and mayor Kevin Johnson (the former Suns player). That’s a step. Turning those steps into something concrete is the next goal.

Now we have all these pledges out there but its Monopoly money, it’s not real. It’s pledges, just like any telethon, but we haven’t cashed them – and that’s gotten us a lot of good PR. The next step is to turn that into actual dollars, so what I need, and my thing from the get-go, from day one, is that we won’t collect a dollar of pledges until we have assurances that all laws are being followed, that everybody is protected, and that the goals of the movement are spelled out ad nausea, and let’s face it – we’re realists here. We know that the odds are against this thing being successful, so there’s more than a decent chance that every penny is going to have to be returned. And if the people of Sacramento and the surrounding regions that are Kings fans, when they are losing their homes and losing their jobs, and they’re still willing to dig into their piggy banks and to donate whatever they can – I need to give them assurances.

It’s a bit of a lost cause, but those can be the most noble.

The people of Sacramento will not just role over, they are trying and fighting back. Whether the battle is lost or not. Which speaks to why these fans should not be losing their team in the first place.