Mayor provides progress report, whale watch continues

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The big partners were not revealed today, although the mayor says that there has been "considerable progress" on that front and that he hopes to reveal them next week.

Mayor Kevin Johnson held a brief Press Conference today to provide a progress report on the second part of his four-part "Playing to Win" strategy. That part of course is finding a large equity investor (or more than one, as some reports have indicated Mark Mastrov and Ron Burkle are in talks to join forces) to make a competitive offer for the team and to collaborate with the city on a downtown arena deal.

Mayor Johnson was not ready to reveal the "whale(s)" just yet, but did say that they have made "considerable progress with a potential ownership group". Recent reports say the city is in talks with at least five groups, of which Mark Mastrov and Ron Burkle are included.

"All the ownership entities (we are in talks with) have the resources to run a championship product"

The Mayor was asked about yesterday's reports on Mastrov and Burkle, but he did not want to go into detail on the whales, citing the nature of discussions. He did say he hoped to reveal the partner(s) next week.

Perhaps the most significant reveal at the conference was when the Mayor said that there are people who would be willing to build a new arena in Sacramento even without an NBA Team/anchor tenant. When asked for his preference of site for an arena deal, the Mayor didn't really specify a preference, aside from it being in downtown where it "makes good economic sense". The two sites heavily believed to be in play are the Railyards (which was part of the arena deal brokered by the NBA in April) and Downtown Plaza. USA Today reported that Ron Burkle is "focused" on the Plaza site and JMA Ventures, which owns the site, has already drawn up some plans.

As for whether the city council would still support an arena, the Mayor said: "That's a building we're delivering on. Council will be able to stamp that point with a very strong showing.". Last year's arena deal was approved by a margin of 7-2.

The Mayor was asked if he knew whether the team's debt was included in Seattle's offer, and while he said the only thing he knew about the Seattle offer was the valuation of $525 million, he did say that he assumed the $77 million city loan was included because it would have to be paid back to the city if the team moved.

The Mayor ended the conference saying that he has a phone call scheduled with NBA Commissioner David Stern tomorrow to give him an update on where Sacramento is at.

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