MVP-Sacramento Kings mystery solved
SACRAMENTO—Manny V. Pangilinan is not purchasing the Sacramento Kings after all. Neither is he buying into the ownership of the National Basketball Association team.
Nevertheless, the Filipino telecom tycoon is working with former Kings great Chris Webber, a Manila visitor last year, for some sort of an “involvement” with the Kings.
Webber, a part of the King’s glory years, was a mainstay of the Sacramento team that lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA’s 2002 Western Conference finals—one of the classic series in the history of the league.
The TNT analyst and entrepreneur still has to unveil plans to keep his former team from moving to Anaheim next year. But Webber says he has lined up private investors (ostensibly including Pangilinan) to help fund the construction of a new Kings arena.
The Kings, owned by the Maloof family, have decided to stay for one more season in Sacramento. If a deal to build a new stadium to replace the antiquated Power Balance Stadium is not sealed by next March, the NBA said it will support the family if it wants to move the team to Southern California.
Pangilinan after reporting that he had met with Webber in Sacramento this week invoked “confidentiality” and did not divulge his exact participation in retaining the Kings in the state capital.
Through a statement, Pangilinan clarified that in the event the Kings investment pushes through, “private, not corporate funds (from the conglomerate he heads) will be deployed.”
Reports of MVP’s bid for the Kings appeared in a couple of sports columns in Manila last month. The items offered a few specifics—spawning rumors that the wealthy businessman had his sights on being either a major Kings owner or stakeholder.
Conspiracy theorists are probably grumbling and wondering aloud why MVP allowed the rumors to titillate a basketball-crazed nation and fly fast and thick for publicity.
Not a peep was heard from the MVP’s usual cadre of spokespersons until RE Graswich, a top aide to former NBA great and Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, clarified that his boss was not scheduled to meet with the businessman and his top executives this week or anytime soon.
Two leading Manila dailies have reported that Pangilinan, while traveling with his group in California, will be in Sacramento to meet with Johnson—who was instrumental in keeping the Kings in Sacramento—in light of the businessman’s interest in the Kings franchise.
Graswich—whose job is to know Kings issues—was a Sacramento Bee sports columnist before joining Johnson’s staff. He expressed surprise when I called him to inquire about the meeting, and was incredulous when I mentioned the rumors surrounding Pangilinan’s reported buyout or buy-in plans.
“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, who immediately backtracked with a caveat.
For months—even years—members of the Maloof family have maintained that the Kings are not for sale, Graswich said.
The Maloofs reiterated that stand while the Kings were on the verge of leaving Sacramento and when Los Angeles billionaire Ron Burkle made overtures to buy the team.
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