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Originally published Tuesday, April 9, 2013 at 7:01 PM

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Sacramento group adds investor after Burkle drops out

Local developer Mark Friedman is replacing Ron Burkle on the team trying to buy the Kings and keep them in Sacramento.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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A day after losing one member of a prospective ownership team hoping to keep the NBA's Kings from moving to Seattle, Sacramento added a replacement.

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, though, resisted any notion that the city was essentially making a trade in adding local developer Mark Friedman to replace Ron Burkle.

It was announced Monday that Burkle would not be involved in the team or financing a new arena due to a conflict of interest. He is part-owner of an athlete-management firm that represents NBA players.

Burkle had been touted as being a key piece of Johnson's efforts to keep the team, and observers wondered how the plans would be impacted by his departure.

The revelation Tuesday that Friedman was now jumping aboard appeared to quiet those questions.

Johnson, though, said the plan all along had been for Friedman — whose family controls the Arden Fair Mall in Sacramento — to become part of the team that will make an offer to buy the Kings as well as help finance a new downtown arena.

In fact, Johnson said he has been talking with Friedman since January and that the NBA was notified of the potential departure of Burkle and addition of Friedman when representatives of Seattle and Sacramento met before a select group of owners last week in New York.

"We shared Mark's name (with the owners)," Johnson said. "They were very pleased."

Johnson said the addition of another local owner could give Sacramento an edge over Seattle as the time for a final decision on which city will be home to the Kings next year edges closer.

"They (NBA owners) thought that gives us one of our advantages that we have such a strong local presence," Johnson said during a Tuesday news conference to announce Friedman's addition to the group.

A Seattle group led by Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer reached an agreement in January to buy the Kings from their current owners, the Maloof family, and later filed to relocate the team to Seattle for the 2013-14 season.

However, all sales must be approved by NBA owners, and Johnson has worked feverishly since January to put together a group that could offer a competing bid for the team as well as help finance a new arena.

Sacramento's hope is that the NBA will deny the sale of the Kings to the Seattle group, forcing the team to stay put.

The NBA's decision could come April 18-19 at the league's annual Board of Governors meeting in New York.

Commissioner David Stern said after the meetings in New York last week that it was possible a decision could be delayed, saying "there are questions that the committee has asked us, the staff, to go back and seek details and answers on with respect to exact structure, capital commitments, construction timelines, potential obstacles."

Johnson, however, said he expects the decision to come at the meetings.

Michael McCann, an on-air legal analyst for NBA TV, said the replacing of Burkle with Friedman could help Sacramento's efforts. It's thought the Maloof family and Burkle are not on good terms dating to Burkle's attempt to buy the Kings a few years ago.

If the Seattle bid is rejected, the Maloofs are not required to sell the team to the Sacramento group.

"If it's true that the Maloofs didn't like Ron Burkle, removing him from the equation could give incentive for the Maloofs to sell to Sacramento," McCann said. "So this ... could end up helping Sacramento. But that's only if the NBA does not approve Hansen and Ballmer."

And McCann said that remains the central issue.

While there have been varying reports about the status of Sacramento's offer, McCann notes there has yet to be any concrete confirmation that Sacramento has presented a bid that will rival that of Seattle's, which was $340 million for 65 percent of the team at a total valuation of $525 million — an NBA record.

"We still don't know what Sacramento is offering for the Kings and if it is enough to persuade NBA owners to do what they have done only once before, and that's to reject a sale," McCann said.

That occurred in 1994 when a proposed sale of the Minnesota Timberwolves to a group that had plans to move them to New Orleans was rejected due to concerns over the finances of the purchasers.

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @bcondotta.

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