A mere eleven years ago, as the LA Lakers were taking on the Sacramento Kings in the 2002 Western Conference finals, Shaquille O’Neal famously labeled the Lakers’ rivals the Sacramento “Queens”. Needless to say, the Kings and their fans were not happy, and there was thereafter little love lost between the two franchises.
Now, as the new “Kings’” ownership group is unveiled, who, of all people, is partnering up with the new billionaire majority owner, TIBCO founder and CEO Vivek Ranadive, and the likes of 24 Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov in the new ownership group? None other than …… Shaquille O’Neal.
Ever the public relations stalwart, at yesterday’s news conference to introduce the new owners, Shaq addressed the issue, calling himself a genius of public relations, who used the defamatory term to stir up interest and excitement. He apologized, 11 years late,
reaching the NBA Finals, they have languished at or near the bottom of their division for eight long season now, not finishing at even .500 for seven of those years. But worse yet for their enthusiastic fan base have been numerous attempts to move the team to other cities and other states.
In 2011, Anaheim seemed assured that the Kings would be soon calling the Honda Center home, and that was followed by interests in Virginia who wanted the team for Virginia Beach. Less than a year ago, it seemed certain that the team would instead be moving north, far, far north, to Seattle, where a deal was about to be finalized, a deal that was about to bring together two of Seattle’s biggest players, Microsoft and Nordstrom, in a joint ownership deal. As the deal needed only the pending approval of the NBA Board of Governors, in stepped Sacramento mayor and former NBA star Kevin Johnson, who after
the local group, but the NBA rejected that deal, and eventually the team was sold to the new Sacrament group, who promised No Anaheim, No Virginia, No Seattle.
And so, Shaq, apparently a long-time friend of Mastrov’s, is now a part owner, and from appearances, it looks like he will be the Magic Johnson of the Kings, the face of a new organization looking for credibility, new fans, and success on the court, after a tumultuous decade of embarrassment and failure.
One other interesting possible conflict of interest involves Mastrov, who has been involved with a number of financial and fitness companies since selling 24 Hour FItness back in 2005. He is a co-founder of NEV, a company that owns and operates a large number of fitness chains, most being celebrity-named enterprises, but one of which is fronted by LA Laker’s guard Steve Nash, and named Steve Nash Fitness World, which apparently has 19 locations in the Pacific Northwest.
I wonder how David Stern reacted to the fact that the part owner of one team is a business partner with a player on another team?