“You’ve got Burkle”, a phrase echoed by David Stern about a year ago that has lingered among Sacramento and NBA fans alike, almost in a mocking fashion. It’s was Stern’s un-lawyer like admission of excitement as he long desired business mogul Ron Burkle to become part of the billionaire boys (and girls – didn’t forget you, Miss Buss) club that is NBA owners.
So when Ron Burkle re-appeared as one of Sacramento’s “whales” in recent months, it was a clear sign that Mayor Kevin Johnson and the city were ready to play hardball, bringing in a prospective player that NBA Commissioner David Stern had long courted to own an NBA franchise. As for Stern’s semi-infatuation with Burkle, it’s easy to see why. A power player who’s not only a business conglomerate but also a quiet socialite with cell phone contacts that read like the Oscar’s guest list, Burkle brings with him money, power, fame and respect. Add in that he revitalized one of the NHL’s storied franchises in the Pittsburgh Penguins, saving them from relocation by building one of the premier arenas in the country, then hoisted a World Champion banner in the rafters quickly there after, it’s no shock to anybody that Burkle was desired by the NBA and Stern.
Unlike Burkle though, the other “whales” in the prospective ownership group aren’t as well known to the public – their names more associated with CNBC than the NBA. But despite their lack of popularity to most, one NBA fan has had their eyes on Vivek Ranadive and the Jacobs family for quite some time. The fan? None other than Commissioner Stern.
Paul Jacobs and his brothers aren’t exactly new to this whole NBA thing. In addition to being season ticket holders of the San Diego Rockets, the NBA has made efforts to bring the Jacobs family into the exclusive club well before they joined into the potential Sacramento ownership group:
This was no whim, for sure. But the Jacobs have been busy with their other ventures.
However, they’d been wooed by the NBA before. They were in David Stern’s Rolodex, as well as that of Ranadive, whose first job out of MIT was at Irwin Jacobs’ first tech company, Linkabit.
These aren’t just potential owners. These aren’t just billionaires. These are major players who’ve caught the eye of David Stern well before their attempts to purchase the Kings. Now, that’s not to discredit the Seattle ownership group by any stretch as both Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer are a fantastic duo in their own right and Ballmer too has intrigued Stern in the past, but Mayor Johnson put together the perfect storm of an ownership group and did so essentially in a matter of weeks.
But back to the prospective owners. Paul Jacobs and his brothers know the pain of losing a team as they lost the Clippers to Los Angeles (and Rockets to Houston, for that matter) nearly thirty years ago and they don’t want to see that happen to Sacramento:
“We remember very well when the team moved out of town,” Jeff said. “We still remember it somewhat sadly. We didn’t want that to happen to Sacramento.”
With plans to attend most home games, the Jacobs family appears to be ready to do whatever it takes along with the rest of the prospective Sacramento ownership group to show the NBA BOG’s that they’re overly capable of keeping this franchise where it belongs.
And where’s that?