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No meeting with Kevin Johnson, but MVP eyeing Kings investment with Chris Webber’s help

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA—Mayor Kevin Johnson is not scheduled to meet with Filipino telecommunications tycoon Manny V. Pangilinan this week or anytime soon, the mayor’s office said Wednesday.

But even as this developed, reports from the group of the Smart-PLDT chief said the lcoal government of Sacramento is urging the magnate to help in keeping the Kings in the area.

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Pangilinan is in Sacramento, a trip that spawned rumors that the businessman is buying into the Kings. He was earlier reported to have a meeting with Johnson, one scuttled by a conflict of schedules.

“No such meeting has been planned,” said mayoral special assistant R. E. Graswich, after he was briefed about news stories from two leading Manila newspapers that a Johnson-MVP meeting was to take place to discuss a possible purchase of Kings’ stakes.

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“I am sure Mr. Pangilinan is a fine gentleman,” he said, but Graswich suggested that the wealthy Filipino businessman should be talking to the team owners instead.

As of this writing, Pangilinan was in California for business and pleasure. He is accompanied by top executives of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas and coaches of two of his teams in the Philippine Basketball Association.

Mayor Johnson himself was in New York today to represent the Kings in the NBA draft lottery. His trip to the Big Apple was the only entry in his public calendar for Tuesday.
Pangilinan and his group have confirmed meeting with former NBA All-Star Chris Webber in Sacramento to discuss possible involvement with the Kings.

“Upon the encouragement of the City of Sacramento we met today, 17th May in Sacramento with Chris Webber and others,” read a statement from the Pangilinan group.
Webber has an investment company that is reportedly committed to building a new arena to keep the Kings in Sacramento for the long-term.

Graswich, a Sacramento Bee sports columnist before joining Johnson’s staff, expressed surprise and apparently was not well-versed about Pagilinan’s reported overture to buy the Kings for a price tag of up to $260 million from the Maloof family.

“I don’t know who’s buying out who, but if I were the buyer, I would need to know what I am buying and the only way to know that is to talk to the owners,” said Graswich.
The Maloof family, which owns the Kings, have staved off moves to buy the Kings  and have steadily maintained their public stance that the team is not for sale and never will be.

Ron Burkle, a Southern California billionaire, emerged also as a potential buyer when the Kings were on the verge of moving to Anaheim. He was reportedly keen on purchasing the team and keeping it in Sacramento—only to be rejected by the Maloofs, who said they plan to hold onto their interests in the team.

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Kings co-owner Joe Maloof was the most blunt about other buyout talks, including that of Pangilinan. When the reported meeting between Kings representatives and Pangilinan saw print via the Sacramento Bee sports blog last month, Joe, without skipping a beat said the entire matter was “ridiculous.”

Other investment opportunities can be explored in the concerted effort to keep Sacramento a viable NBA market, said Graswich. But again only the team’s owners have first hand knowledge about such things, he said.

Pangilinan also said in his statement that his purpose for meeting with Webber “was to explore the possibility of forming an investors group which may be interested in investing in the Sacramento Kings.”

The top honcho of PLDT-Smart and president of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas said that “while the Maloofs (current owners of the Kings) have committed to keeping the Sacramento Kings in Sacramento for one more season the city government is looking for ways to keep the Kings.”

Pangilinan added that “for reasons of confidentiality, this is all that can be disclosed at this time. In any event if the investment materializes, private not corporate funds will be deployed.”

The decision by the Maloof family to keep their team in Sacramento rather than apply for relocation to Anaheim, Calif., is only temporary. Joe Maloof and NBA Commissioner David Stern have made it clear that the team will leave after next season if an arena plan is not in place.

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TAGS: Anaheim, Chris Webber, Joe Maloof, Kevin Johnson, Maloofs, Manny V. Pangilinan, MVP, NBA, PLDT-Smart, Ron Burkle, Sacramento Bee, Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas, Sports
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