The Maloofs’ plan to sell the Sacramento Kings to a Seattle group ran into a pair of hurdles Thursday – a possible counteroffer from America’s third richest man and a potential legal challenge from at least one of the Maloofs’ own limited partners.

Larry Ellison, one of the titans of Silicon Valley, is expected to meet soon with Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson about the Kings situation, according to Kings minority owner Bob Cook.

With Cook complaining the Maloofs have improperly shut limited partners out of the bidding, Ellison’s potential interest in the team ramps up the drama even higher. The software tycoon is worth $41 billion and was an unsuccessful bidder for the Golden State Warriors in 2010.

Cook said he asked a Bay Area sports attorney to broker the meeting between Ellison and Johnson, and he expects it will occur soon. The mayor has been recruiting deep-pocketed “whales” to present a competing bid to the NBA that he hopes would derail the Maloofs’ pending sale to an investor group that would move the team to Seattle.

A spokeswoman for Ellison declined comment. The mayor’s office issued this statement: “Out of respect for the private nature of these conversations, we are not commenting on any of the ongoing discussions with potential equity partners, real or imagined.”

By Tony Bizjak, Dale Kasler and Ryan Lillis of the Sacramento Bee