Much ado has been written by reporters and tweeted by fans on how the NBA Board of Governors will decide upon the two main ownership groups which have submitted bids to buy the Sacramento Kings and either keep them where they are or move them. "Vetting" is a word we Sacramento and Seattle NBA fans have learned to cringe upon hearing and much has been discussed trying to decide which city is the better fit, which arena plan has the better chance of success and which ownership group is the richest.
I'm going to say right here: Richest doesn't matter.
If "richest" was a defining factor then we would all be watching Larry Ellison high-fiving Steph Curry after his seventh 3-pointer. Stern himself has said that it will not come down to a bidding war. It makes sense for him to say that.
The Kings will NEVER be overvalued enough that either group would have any problem coming up with enough money to buy the team. Both groups are that rich. Once you have enough to buy a team, well..., you have enough. Waving around extra bank account statements for money that isn't being used for the team will not make a shred of difference.
So what else can the BOG use then in deciding between the two groups?
Character. Innovation. Success.
Anti-Maloofery, if you will.
The NBA has had enough of the Maloof method and I believe, when having-enough-money is equal, they will prefer an ownership group that adds to the character of the league.
These guys all have lots of money. How did they make it? How successful have they been at keeping it and being a steward for the money of others entrusted to them? What have they charitably done after they made their millions?
Some may laugh that the other NBA owners will not care about any of that, but if not how else do you define character and decide which group is the more worthy?
I broke out Google and tried to find out about these main guys: Burkle and Mastrov on the Sacramento side and Hansen and Ballmer on the Seattle side. What I found, and was unable to find, really surprised me.
I discovered that it was a whole lot easier to find high character references for one side, Sacramento, over the other. I will say here now that I am no expert and there is probably plenty of stuff I missed. But on the easily searchable surface here is what I found.
The guy is a peach. He is self made, has helped countless businesses get started and grow and his charitable contribution list is longer than the number of letters in the alphabet - listed three times over.
He supports programs that strengthen international understanding, foster worker’s rights, empower under-served communities, nurture the arts and architecture, engage children in learning and advance scientific research.
He founded The Yucaipa Companies in 1986 and is widely recognized as one of the preeminent investors in the retail, manufacturing and distribution industries. Ron has served as Chairman of the Board and controlling shareholder of numerous companies including Alliance Entertainment, Golden State Foods, Dominick’s, Fred Meyer, Ralphs and Food4Less.
He is Co-Chairman of the Burkle Center for International Relations at UCLA and is broadly involved in the community. He is a trustee of the Carter Center, the National Urban League, AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA) and has been an active member of the Frank Lloyd Wright Conservancy. Ron is the current owner of Lloyd Wright’s famous textile block Ennis House. Ron Burkle was the Founder and Chairman of the Ralphs/Food4Less Foundation and the Fred Meyer Inc. Foundation.
He has received numerous honors and awards including the AFL-CIO’s Murray Green Meany Kirkland Community Service Award, the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor Man of the Year, the Los Angeles County Boy Scouts Jimmy Stewart Person of the Year Award and the APLA Commitment to Life Award.
He invests in sports being a quiet steady owner of the Penguins who went on to win a championship after he bought the team. He has partnered with Magic Johnson and other sports figures in his ventures.
He exudes success and character and there is no wonder that David Stern's jaw dropped in a smile towards KJ as he proclaimed, "You've got Burkle?"
Another self made man.
Mark Mastrov Businessweek profile is here. He is considered an innovator and visionary within the health and fitness industry. Mr. Mastrov started 24-Hour Fitness in 1983. From there, he built a fitness empire of more 420 clubs located in 16 U.S. States, Hong Kong, mainland China, Taiwan, Malaysia and Singapore.
He serves as the Founder, President and Chief Executive Officer at Fitness Holdings Worldwide, Inc. He serves as a Founding Partner at Steve Nash Fitness World, Inc. He served as the Chief Executive Officer of 24 Hour Fitness USA, Inc. until October 2006. Recently, he founded the New Evolution Fitness Company (NEFC), based in Northern California. Mr. Mastrov is the Chairman of New Evolution Ventures, which he co-founded. He serves as the Chairman of the Board of 24 Hour Fitness USA, Inc. He has been a Director of Netpulse, Inc. since March, 2011.
He is a director of Sharecare Inc. which operates an interactive health and wellness social platform that provides people with access to expert-developed answers, information, and programs to live their healthiest life. The company’s social question and answer platform allows people to ask, learn, and act upon questions of health and wellness. Its platform enlists health experts, care providers, organizations, and brands to join the health and wellness conversation and empower users with answers to their health questions.
He is a director of Netpulse Inc which provides a location-based, interactive, and personalized cloud-based digital platform for fitness centers and active lifestyle consumers.
He is chairman of New Evolution Ventures which is a private equity firm specializing in acquisition investments. The firm seeks to develop, manage, and operate health, fitness, wellness, media, and sports entities.
He is the director of the Andre Agassi Charitable foundation
By all reports he is regarded as a visionary man genuinely interested in the health and well-being of mankind.
"We’re not going to go around saying, ‘Please sell us your team,’ "he said. "We’re not going to pry a team away." Chris Hansen – 10/16/12
He started the firm Valiant Capital in 2008. Because the hedge fund industry is not required to be transparent in its dealings, (they remain largely unregulated,) little is known about the day to day operation other than SEC filings listing owned stocks.
If you want to invest in his company, you probably can't. The minimum investment in Valiant is $10 million, according to documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Hansen bought Facebook heavily for Valiant when it was initially offered. In July of 2012 Valiant Capital was listed as one of the biggest losers in the Facebook stock crash. Valiant had lost $554.3 million dollars at that time.
One of Valiant's top 7 investments is in Baidu Inc., the Chinese search engine which has been widely criticized by rights groups for its repressive censoring of search results.
I could find nothing listed when I searched for charities under his name. Nothing.
Windows 8. (drops mic)
Seriously though, after searching out Steve Ballmer... If Ron Burkle is a peach, Steve Ballmer is the pit.
He made his money getting in on the ground floor of Microsoft and working his way up through the company ranks becoming CEO on January 13, 2000. It has been reported he keeps his position by forcing out anyone successful enough to advance to his level in the company.
The adjusted stock price for Microsoft (adjusted for dividends and splits) since Ballmer took over according to Yahoo finance is this:
The adjusted close on Jan 13, 2000 was $40.55
The adjusted close on Mar 6, 2013 was $28.35
Under Ballmer's watch, Microsoft has lost 30% of its value!
On March 1st of this year, that is 5 days ago, Motley Fool listed Microsoft as one of three stocks that would rally if their CEOs were fired stating they are "blowing billions on ill-fated acquisitions and pie-in-the-sky projects."
Today Microsoft was fined $733 million by the European Union for unfair practices in breaking a browser pact.
- Exceptionally low approval rating among employees.
- Led no real Innovation.
- Squandered major market opportunities.
- Oversaw dismal production releases.
- Made horrible investments.
- Eroded shareholder value.
- Had many obscenity laced screaming matches with employees.
This is the man who instantly dismissed the iPhone in 2007: “There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance.”
Again, I could find nothing listed when I searched for charities under his name. Well... he did sign a Microsoft tablet so it could go to a charity auction, so there is that.
Microsoft employees were listed as being charitable as a group, but nothing listed under Ballmer specifically.
Basically, Ballmer is the Maloof family all over again, just on a richer and grander scale.
So I think it is pretty clear how the two ownership groups stack up if the NBA cares about the people it has as owners. The Sacramento group of Burkle and Mastrov far outpace the group of Hansen and Ballmer in terms of character. Which would you want as your owners?
Disclosure: I am a Sacramento Kings fan foremost so if this seems slanted to you, it probably and unapologetically is so.
Dave Lack was the longtime webmaster of the Bleacher Mob and Kingsfanclub websites way back when before real life became too hectic.
You can follow him on Twitter at @davelack
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