For those of you who are devotees of the hit HBO drama “Game of Thrones” and are Sacramento Kings fans, your cup runneth over in twists, turns, intrigue, power plays, family infighting, wars of words and battles of city states.
Remember the headlines in January? “Sacramento Kings heading to Seattle!” Microsoft billionaire Steve Ballmer and San Francisco hedge fund investor Chris Hansen reached a deal with the Maloof family to purchase the Kings, move them to Seattle for the 2013-14 season and agreed with city officials in to build a new downtown arena.
After many years of sellouts and success, the mutual love affair between the Maloofs, the team, elected officials, sponsors and the fans fell apart. The Maloofs were unable or unwilling to negotiate a new arena deal in Sacramento They set their sights on a move to Las Vegas, then Anaheim in 2011. When the SoCal relocation was blocked, they looked north to Seattle. It seemed to educated observers that the Kings throne, which had been relocated from Kansas City to California’s capital in 1985, was going to end up in the city of the Space Needle.
Kings supporters were hoping that a buzzer beating public-private effort could save their team.
The point man for this come-from-behind-victory happened to be a former NBA All-Star point guard who knew how to weave through the complicated bureaucratic traffic of big time pro sports politics.
Never bet against a mayor who has his city’s DNA in his veins. Kevin Johnson’s last second heroics, persuasive powers and ability to leap tall new arena challenges in a single bound saved the day and the franchise. Mayor K.J. took the ball and simply declared to anyone who would listen that the Kings weren’t going anywhere.
First he pulled together local business leaders who pledged $20 million dollars to help the rescue effort. That led to billionaire Ron Burkle and Mark Mastrov stepping up to take on the ownership and new arena financial obligations. When Burkle had to withdraw, Warriors limited partner Vivek Ranadive quickly filled the void.
The Ranadive group moved quickly in the past few weeks to take control of the team and solidify their vision for the Kings' future:
On May 22nd, owners held a rally of Kings fans, a massive success with thousands turning out to show their loyalty and thanks. The Kings have already secured renewals from 70 percent of their season-ticket holders, and sales should get even stronger in the coming weeks.
NEW DOWNTOWN ARENA
The Maloofs sold the franchise in a deal that values the Kings at an NBA-record $535 million. Sacramento has kept its Kings, but is facing strict NBA deadlines for building the new downtown venue. Shortly after Ranadive and his partners completed the record-setting purchase of the franchise, NBA Commissioner David Stern revealed that the Ranadive group must meet "a series of benchmarks" for a new arena or risk losing the Kings to another city. The NBA is insisting that the building at Downtown Plaza open no later than 2017. The Ranadive group expects to open a $448 million arena at Downtown Plaza in time for the 2016-17 season.
The new group moved quickly replacing Keith Smart with highly regarded Golden State Warriors assistant coach Mike Malone. They need to be careful that this makeover doesn’t end up looking too much like Warriors north.
Ownership is taking an aggressive approach in all areas especially on the team side. Ranadive has told long time GM Geoff Petrie his contract won’t be renewed.
Names being dribbled around are R.C. Buford from the Spurs, Golden State's Travis Schlenk, Chris Wallace of the Memphis Grizzlies, Pacers GM David Morway, and OKC Ass’t GM Troy Weaver. The Legend Larry Bird has even been part of the Kings conversation. Why not give Jerry West a call since he is already a trusted confidant of Ranadive and helping with the due diligence on this important hire?
Surely the new basketball brain trust will make changes on the court. Moving up the ladder in the Western Conference is a challenge that will test the new ownerships basketball and business savvy.
NEW TEAM PRESIDENT, COO OR CEO
This one can wait a bit based on whether it will be a business-focused hire, or a basketball-focused daily operating head of the franchise.
The Kings website is asking fans to 'Begin Your Legacy.' The team may be playing their games for the next few years in Sleep Train Arena but the new ownership is fast breaking on restoring the Kings' regal image.
The Sacramento Kings New Ownership Group
Vivek Ranadive, SF Peninsula, Tibco software heads a group of new Sacramento Kings owners from across the Golden State, including:
Raj Bhathal, Newport Beach, swimwear manufacturer
Mark Friedman, Sacramento, real estate developer
Katrina Garnett, Hillsborough, founder, CrossWorlds Software and My Little Swans
Arjun Gupta, Foster City, venture capitalist with TeleSoft Partners
Paul Jacobs, San Diego, Qualcomm CEO
Chris Kelly, Palo Alto, early Facebook employee
Andy Miller, Menlo Park, Highland Capital
Mark Mastrov, Lafayette, 24 Hour Fitness founder