Ron Burkle was the original whale.
Before Matrov emerged as the charismatic front man who would carry the media load on behalf of the deep pocketed investor and before Vivec was announced as the guy who would replace Mastrov. A visionary who was going to deliver the Indian market and bring on NBA v3.0.
Burkle was the guy who everybody in Sacramento pointed to as the money man. The guy who was their ace in the hole and who's deep pockets and relationship with the league were going to deliver certain victory.
When Vivek was announced there were immediate rumblings that his presence was not simply adding to the team but instead a last minute substitution as both Burkle and Mastrov were wavering in their commitment. These rumblings increased last week after Burkle had only a minimal role at NBA Board of Governor presentations and came to a head this weekend as word on the street began to grow that he was out.
Today Dale Kasler confirmed via twitter and in the SacBee that Burkle will not be part of the teams investment group. The rumors that I am hearing indicate that Burkle's financial contribution will actually be even one step further removed. Arena payment will be split by the city and team while he will focus on overall downtown planning and involvement in "adjacent development." - He is out of the meat of the deal.
Kevin Johnson will come out and announce that this is no problem, that this is part of the plan and that Burkle has always been focused on the building more than the team. He will say that this is a preferential set of circumstances.
The reality is that this announcement is the culmination of multiple set backs: delayed investor announcements, delayed term sheets, reshuffling of ownership groups. All of these things are reaction to the fact that they don't have it together the way they want to. This press conference is much more about damage control at the highest levels of Johnson's support coalition than it is damage control on the league or public level.
Johnson has a lot of explanation to do. He has been VERY vocal since the start of this process that Ron Burkle was a substantial difference maker. Today he will say the opposite and try to convince his team that Burkle was an extra piece that they have always been able to live with or without.