OAKLAND, CA -- Mark Mastrov hasn’t exactly been going from newspaper to newspaper trumpeting his interest in buying the NBA’s Golden State Warriors. But when word got out last week and he was asked about his intentions of owning the Warriors, Mastrov didn’t deny his interest.

Two media reports in the Bay Area, one that ran in last Thursday’s San Jose Mercury News and another that ran in Sunday’s Oakland Tribune, outlined Mastrov’s hopes of landing the Warriors.

In an interview with Club Industry, Mastrov, who founded 24 Hour Fitness, San Ramon, CA, and now runs New Evolution Fitness Co. (NEFC), Lafayette, CA, says he didn’t necessarily want his name publicly listed as an interested party in purchasing the team. Mastrov adds, though, that he has had his eye on the Warriors for the past 10 years.

“I’ve been an interested party for a long time,” Mastrov says. “I definitely have an interest. I definitely have a phenomenal team that can make a run at it, but it’s so early, I can’t tell you too much from there.”

The Warriors, who play in Oakland but whose history dates back to San Francisco and Philadelphia before that, announced on March 22 that current owner Chris Cohan is putting the team up for sale. From the outset, Oracle Corp. CEO Larry Ellison has been reported as the front-runner in landing the team. The Warriors play their home games in Oracle Arena.

“My view is, if Larry was going to buy the team, he would have already bought it by now,” Mastrov says. “I think that there’s a pretty good chance Larry has no interest, and therefore, it will go to other parties, such as myself, who have high interest. Larry, I’m sure, can write the check if he wants to write it. He’s been talking to them for quite some time. There’s no guarantee (Cohan) will sell it, either.”

In 2005, Mastrov sold 24 Hour to Forstmann Little and Co. for $1.68 billion. He stayed on with 24 Hour until he resigned as chairman of the board in 2008. NEFC operates club companies such as Crunch and UFC Gym, and it recently partnered with Steve Nash Sports Club to purchase Canada’s Fitness World.

In addition to Nash, who plays for the NBA’s Phoenix Suns, Mastrov has ties to NBA stars Shaquille O’Neal and Magic Johnson, both of whom branded 24 Hour clubs with Mastrov during his tenure there.

Mastrov played college basketball at the junior college and NCAA Division II levels and closely follows the Warriors and the NBA.

“I have a lot of experience around the sport. It’s not like I’m going in blind,” Mastrov says. “I’ve spent a lot of time with a lot of the greatest players in the league. I’ve met a lot of the owners. I’ve spent time with (NBA commissioner) David Stern on several occasions.”

Cohan has yet to establish a timetable for a sale. Mastrov says the team has yet to release to potential buyers a book of financials about the franchise.

The most recent change of ownership in the NBA occurred this year, when NBA star Michael Jordan agreed to purchase the Charlotte Bobcats, which was put up for sale in May 2009, for a reported $275 million. The NBA’s Board of Governors approved the sale earlier this month.

If Mastrov becomes the Warriors’ owner, it is believed he would be the first fitness club operator to own a team in one of the four major-league North American sports—baseball, basketball, football and hockey.

“The fitness industry is a very serious business, a multi-billion-dollar enterprise in this country that helps keep a lot of people in great physical condition,” Mastrov says. If he did become owner of an NBA team, he says it might give the fitness industry recognition as a more serious industry.