Billionaire “whale” Ron Burkle is swimming away from a direct role in funding new downtown arena, and Sacramento developer Mark Friedman is rushing in. Friedman’s family controls Arden Fair mall and other properties, according to the Sacramento Bee.
Burkle, once hailed as the savior of the Kings, had to leave the coalition of schemers and dreamers because of a conflict of interest. He is part-owner of a sports management firm that represents some NBA players.
In making the announcement Monday, the mayor said that Burkle will stick around in hopes of cashing in on development near the arena. “There’s a host of ancillary development opportunities that Ron will participate in,” Johnson said.
Burkle’s ouster as a key financier came as a shock to folks who have been following arena developments. But not to insiders, apparently.
“When we were going back to New York, we knew that (Burkle) had a potential conflict,” the mayor told a crowd at Downtown Plaza. “We were trying to work out the issue. Ultimately the NBA felt it violated their rules.”
You might wonder, then, how many members of the City Council knew about this when they approved the term sheet just a week before the mayor presented it to an NBA committee April 3. The enthusiastic Bee story about the council meeting said nothing about Burkle’s shaky status.
“We have four billionaires who’ve essentially said Sacramento is worthy,” said Councilman Steve Hansen, sounding awed by the presence of so much wealth in sleepy Sacramento.
Well, drag $258 million in public giveaways through downtown Sacramento, and there’s no telling who may turn up.