The eight brick buildings that make up the Central Shops dominate in this drone photograph of The Railyards looking south toward downtown Sacramento. (Photo by Hector Amezcua)

Ron Burkle: The Man Backing the MLS Bid

Back Article Aug 13, 2019 By Graham Womack

(Photo by Hector Amezcua/The Sacramento Bee)

Five things to know about Ron Burkle, who joined Sacramento Republic FC as lead investor in its bid to join Major League Soccer:

He’s a man of few words. 

A reclusive investor with a net worth of $1.5 billion as of June per Forbes, the Southern California-based Burkle prefers to hang back, certainly in public. Investment partner Matt Alvarez has the more public role, taking meetings with local leaders and project managers while Republic FC has finalized its bid to become an MLS expansion franchise.

He’s no absentee investor. 

Far from it, in fact. Burkle became majority owner and principal investor for Republic FC in January and already has made his presence known. “Make no mistake, Ron knows everything that’s going on, and he weighs in as he needs,” Ben Gumpert, team president and chief operating officer, says. 

His teams win championships.

Burkle partnered with hockey legend Mario Lemieux to buy the Pittsburgh Penguins of the National Hockey League out of bankruptcy in 1999, as Burkle noted in a rare interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. His time as a part owner has been highly successful, with the team drafting franchise cornerstone Sidney Crosby in 2005 and winning the Stanley Cup three times since 2008.

This isn’t his first Sacramento rodeo. 

During the mad scramble to keep the Kings in Sacramento after the Maloof family announced plans to sell the team to a group that would move it to Seattle, local leaders, including former Mayor Kevin Johnson, tried desperately to recruit wealthy investors to form a new ownership group. Burkle was an early candidate to lead this group before bowing out, with the public reason cited that he owned an agency that represents NBA players. Eventually, Vivek Ranadivé led a group that purchased the team.

He’s perhaps the biggest signal MLS is coming to Sacramento. 

As his friend Lloyd Greif told The Sacramento Bee, “Trust me, I know Ron; he wouldn’t be doing this if there was any risk that Republic wasn’t going to be an MLS team.” It’s to Sacramento and The Railyards’ benefit, of course, with Mayor Darrell Steinberg saying, “We now have the opportunity to build out The Railyards much faster than we otherwise would.”

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