Updated 2:52 p.m.
After more than a year of searching for a billionaire “whale” to purchase Sacramento’s Republic FC soccer team, Mayor Darrell Steinberg announced on Tuesday that investor Ron Burkle is now its controlling owner.
Burkle and a contingent of city and Republic officials plan to meet with Major League Soccer’s top brass sometime in early February, according to the mayor, in an effort to secure one of its pro-soccer squads.
“We will make our case, our strong case, for Sacramento to become the next Major League Soccer franchise,” Steinberg told a capacity crowd at the annual State of Downtown breakfast.
The Republic FC, a minor-league team, has tried for years to join the ranks of MLS pro soccer. The league denied the team’s most recent pitch in 2017, with reports indicating that MLS Commissioner Don Garber wanted then-owner Kevin Nagle to sell his majority to an investor with more significant financial heft.
On Tuesday, the mayor was confident about the Republic’s chances with Burkle, who is now the team’s lead investor, in the driver’s seat.
“The commissioner laid out a series of markers last year,” Steinberg said. “And we accepted that challenge, and we went after it, and now we have met every one of those markers.”
Burkle, who owns the Pittsburgh Penguins hockey franchise, made his fortune as a supermarket magnate. He is managing partner of a venture capital firm, and Forbes estimated his net worth in 2018 at $2 billion. He also previously was floated as a possible investor to purchase the Sacramento Kings from the Maloof family, but eventually pulled out.
Steinberg also announced that Burkle and the Republic have agreed to purchase 14 acres of downtown Railyards land with the goal of developing an entertainment district adjacent to the proposed soccer stadium.
The city will not contribute money toward the construction of a soccer stadium or the entertainment district, Steinberg said on Tuesday. He added that it would consider other incentives, such as reduced fees or revenue rights from digital billboards.
The mayor exuded confidence that, this time, Sacramento would make it to the finish line with Burkle. "We are prepared to go back again to New York City having met that punch list that the commissioner of the league put out. And I am very hopeful that we are going to win. We should win,” Steinberg told CapRadio.