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Behind the Scenes

Will Mastrov Own the Sacramento Kings? (And Is He Russian?)

News of Mark Mastrov's interest in buying the NBA's Sacramento Kings came down after 4 p.m. last Friday afternoon. Because, well, of course it did.

Leaving the office early? Sure, just this once to run a couple of errands before heading home. Going out that night? Sure, just this once, to eat out at a restaurant and pretend that I'm part of an actual married couple.

But of course this news had to come to my attention just as I was finishing up some fine Kansas City barbecue at Oklahoma Joe's. The Sacramento Bee reached out to both Pam Kufahl and me for some background on Mastrov. Pam wins the prize of returning the call first and thus was referenced in this article from the Bee on the Kings' ownership situation. The Bee also took some information from our story two years ago about Mastrov's bid to own the Golden State Warriors, a bid that came up short.

Although Mastrov declined to comment to us (the "I want to own the Kings" email somehow did not make it to my inbox), he did tell the Bee and CBS Sports that he has spoken to the Maloof brothers, who own the Kings, about selling the team to him and his group and that he intends to keep the team in Sacramento.

The attention this story produced is not all bad, even if it came on a Friday night. We tweeted out this blog post about Mastrov and his ties to Steve Nash, an NBA guard and partner in Steve Nash Fitness World, a post which has much more life now than it did when it was published three years ago. Oddly enough, Mastrov's increased dialogue with Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson means he now has ties to two former Phoenix Suns point guards, for what it's worth.

The attention has also produced some interesting coverage of Mastrov. In a rundown of other potential buyers of the Kings, Deadspin profiled Mastrov and linked this item from, which says Mastrov's net worth is $350 million. The Deadspin writer also asked, "Is he Russian?" before answering himself, "No, I don't think so." (For the record, Mastrov is half-Russian, half-Italian, but born and raised in northern California.)

This profile and other mentions of Mastrov the past few days refer to him as the founder of 24 Hour Fitness, which is true. Except that for the average public, the news reports make it appear he is still with the company. Mastrov cut ties with 24 Hour five years ago and now runs New Evolution Ventures, which operates Crunch, UFC Gym (which just acquired LA Boxing) and Madonna's Hard Candy Fitness, among other brands.

If it seems this news is personal, it is. Not only do I know Mastrov, but I also know that the Kings were my Kansas City Kings as a youth, and their move to Sacramento crushed 11-year-old Stu, right as the Magic-Bird-Jordan NBA was taking flight. Now Mastrov and others are trying to prevent them from moving to Seattle, which is where my brother lives and where they lost their SuperSonics to Oklahoma City five years ago.

It would be cool to see a fitness industry leader own an NBA team. It also would be sad to see a great NBA town like Seattle remain without an NBA team. I'm torn. I don't know what to think. I'll have to chew on a rib and ponder this some more. But fair warning: I'm planning to go out again this Friday night. No interruptions, please.

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