Johnson says Mark Mastrov and Ron Burkle were both vying to own the Kings, but the Mayor convinced each man to take half of the project. Mastrov will try to buy the team. Burkle will use his experience as co-owner of the National Hockey League Pittsburgh Penguins to work on the arena side.
Johnson says he broached the topic of bringing the Sacramento Monarchs of the WNBA back to Sacramento relatively soon after he and Mastrov began talking. Former Monarchs players were in the audience and received loud ovations when the Mayor introduced them.
Johnson waited until nearly the end of the State of the City speech to address the City's efforts to keep a Seattle group from moving the Kings, which is when he received his loudest ovation, "Let me be perfectly... crystal... clear. It's not going to be this team."
Several dozen Kings fans in t-shirts that read "Crown Downtown" lead the cheers, including one of "SAC-rah-MEN-to" midway through the Mayor's remarks.
Johnson then announced the Mastrov/Burkle group. The Mayor also revealed former King all-star Mitch Richmond is one of the 25 people who have pledged a million dollars toward the ownership effort, "We are currently working on a proposal for that group of local owners to buy a seven percent stake in the team that is currently in bankruptcy."
After the event the Mayor was asked about a competing bid from minority owner John Kehriotis that is in the process of being finalized, "We're certainly not going to exclude anybody who feels they can finance an arena all privately with no public subsidy. That would be a dream for all of us. But, on the same token a lot of times those hail marys don't work out."
Johnson says he plans to be in New York for the NBA Board of Governor's meetings April 18-19 to present the Mastrov/Burkle group. He says he may meet with the NBA committee April 1.
After the State of the City speech and while the Mayor was answering questions from the media, several dozen Kings fans celebrated his announcements in a bar across the street from Memorial Auditorium. Ernest Wong was one of them. He's excited about the possibility of two new teams playing downtown, "You're gonna eat at a restaurant, you're gonna go to the game, you're gonna eat again maybe. You're gonna spend your money in the downtown where it's usually dead right now. In a couple of years, it's gonna be booming."