Born in Oakland shortly after his father completed his basketball career at Cal under legendary coach Pete Newell, Mark Mastrov was reared in Castro Valley and earned his degree at Cal State Hayward two years before founding a business in San Leandro.

He was 25 years old.

And that business made him a mega-millionaire.

So it's accurate to conclude Mastrov's comfortable life was formed in East Bay neighborhoods and that his ambitions are not easily denied.

Now living in Lafayette with his wife, Mindee, and their four children, Mastrov's current ambition is to own the Warriors, who went on the market last Monday. He's acutely aware there are several potential buyers and that the presumption has mega-billionaire Larry Ellison routing every one

"I don't worry too much about that; there's going to be a lot of Larry Ellisons looking at this opportunity," Mastrov says. "If I sit back and say money wins championships "... when you look around the league, there are a lot of very wealthy owners, like (Dallas Mavericks owner) Mark Cuban. So it's not just about having deep pocketbooks.

"You have to understand the process and you have to put the right team together. If we decide we can get into the bidding process, I think I've put together a phenomenal team that can execute plans to bring the Warriors to the level of a winning program."

Mastrov in 1983 founded 24 Hour Nautilus health club, which grew into the 24 Hour Fitness chain. Selling out in a $1.68 billion transaction in 2005, he came away with a lot more than a huge profit off the $15,000 he'd borrowed from his grandmother.


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He also took away valuable business connections with superstar sports figures and celebrities. In the wireless world, Mastrov is seconds away from Magic Johnson, Lance Armstrong, Andre Agassi, Derek Jeter, Shaquille O'Neal, Jackie Chan and many others.

The partnership possibilities, along with his deep roots and loyalty to the East Bay, make Mastrov, 52, an intriguing contestant to buy the team he has rooted for since his father, Bert, first took him to games at the Cow Palace in the early 1960s.

This also may explain why Mastrov, a breezy conversationalist, grows silent when asked about his partners. He wouldn't provide names or numbers, saying only that some reside outside the Bay Area.

"It would definitely be a team of people with me that I've already put together," he says. "I'm not sure how it would shake out until we get into the bidding process and see what kind of capital we need to deploy. But I've put together a strong team."

There was one other subject on which Mastrov was reluctant to elaborate: rumors about moving the team back to San Francisco.

He conceded only that there were several factors, including the lease agreement at Oracle Arena, which extends through 2017, with five-year options through 2027, as well as the basic challenges of building a new arena.

"The current fan support is off the charts, one of the best in the NBA," Mastrov acknowledges. "I've been to just about every stadium in the country, and Warriors fans are like no other. They fill the place, win or lose or draw. They go out there and give it their all.

"But the reality is the (arena is) kind of antiquated. And from a revenue standpoint, you want to be able to put the best product on the floor."

Another reality is that building a major facility anywhere in California is always difficult and particularly so nowadays. Though Oracle Arena was remodeled in 1997, the only entirely new venue opened on either side of the Bay in the past 40 years is privately financed AT&T Park.

Chances are slim that a new ownership would move the Warriors across the bay, considerably slimmer that any move would come in the foreseeable future.

As for the actual timetable for a sale, there isn't one anybody can pin down. Though the Warriors have retained Galatioto Sports Partners to broker the deal, the books are being examined and, therefore, the bidding process has yet to begin.

Believing it could be another month before bidders have enough information to get serious about purchase figures, Mastrov will continue to do his homework.

"I've had the opportunity to spend time with (NBA commissioner) David Stern on several occasions," he says. "I've met a lot of the owners and had a chance to sit down and talk with them to try to understand some of the complexities and difficulties related to owning and managing a team. I've been around a lot of people involved in the sport, from athletes and players around the NBA to former players and their associates."

He has connections and desire. He's driven and very local. Through it all, though, Mastrov is a fan. That's clear when he says if Ellison or anyone else were to buy the Warriors, his only hope is they do whatever is necessary to build a winner.

Contact Monte Poole at mpoole@bayareanewsgroup.com.

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