Heisley announces agreement to sell Grizzlies
Memphis Grizzlies majority owner Michael Heisley said Monday that he has an agreement to sell his NBA team to a group headed by California billionaire Robert J. Pera.
Heisley made the announcement after published reports that he finally had found a buyer for the team he moved from Vancouver to Memphis in 2001.
“I am confident that the franchise will continue its development toward being a perennial championship contender and an important member of the Memphis community,” Heisley said in a statement. “I am particularly gratified that we have put together a team which is poised to continue its development. We have an outstanding team of players, coaching staff and basketball and business management.”
The sale is subject to approval by the NBA Board of Governors and other conditions.
Heisley bought the Grizzlies in 2000, moved the team to Memphis in 2001 and finally into the FedExForum in 2004. The Grizzlies are coming off their two best seasons with their first postseason wins in franchise history.
ESPN.com reported the sale would be for approximately $350 million.
The Illinois billionaire, now 75, had a deal in 2006 with a group headed by Christian Laettner that fell through in January 2007 when they failed to line up financing the $252 million to buy his majority share. Heisley had been talking to Oracle founder Larry Ellison earlier this year about a possible sale before backing off, saying he didn’t want to sell to someone who would relocate the team.
The timing to sell couldn’t be much better.
The Grizzlies went 41-25 this season and reached the playoffs a second straight year. They took Oklahoma City to seven games in the second round in 2011 and lost to the Los Angeles Clippers in seven games in the first round last month after blowing a 27-point lead in the opener.
Pera, 34, is a former Apple engineer who left in 2005 to start Ubiquiti Networks, a communications technology company that makes WiFi networking equipment. He became a billionaire in October 2011 when his company went public. A stock dip earlier this month has left Pera worth an estimated $980 million, but he has been described as a big basketball fan who loves to play the game.
The Grizzlies moved into their current arena, the FedExForum, in 2004, and their lease would make it very costly to leave before 2021. Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol and Mike Conley — four of five starters — are under contract for at least the next three seasons.