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THE GRIZZLIES’ OWNER, CLOSE TO SELL THE FRANCHISE
Wed, 13 Jun 2012 03:59 AM EDT

After 2 successive trips to the playoffs and a return to respectability in the Western Conference, Michael Heisley has found a customer to purchase the Memphis Grizzlies, according to sources with understanding of the owner’s arrangement.

Sources recounted that Heisley has an understanding in principle to sell the team to communications technology mogul Robert Pera, who at 34 years old has a spot on Forbes’ list of the 10 youngest billionaires in the World. Baseball odds

The purchase price is in the $350 million range, sources asserted. A formal announcement to publicize the agreement between the parties is anticipated this week, with NBA Board of Governors approval then needed before Pera can be officially installed as successor to Heisley, who lately turned 75.

Sources say that Pera intends to keep the team in Memphis. The Grizzlies’ lease at the FedExForum, furthermore, ties the team to the city till the year 2021, with steep money penalties attached to breaking that lease.

In 2006, Heisley concluded to sell his 70 % controlling stake in the Grizzlies for a reported $360 million to a partnership titled by Christian Laettner and fellow Duke Alumnus Brian Davis. That agreement infamously collapsed and was followed by the controversial trade of Pau Gasol to the Lakers in February 2008. That move at 1st earned Heisley widespread criticism before the Grizzlies’ recent turnabout. But Pera is often known as a basketball follower in business circles and is an unquestionably more serious bidder given his financial portfolio.

Sources said that Pera was spotted at a Grizzlies game in March touring the team’s facilities and operations and Heisley recognized in March that there had been another unnamed bidder for the team together with California multimillionaire Larry Ellison. Heisley was quoted as saying that he halted negotiations with Ellison because the deep-pocketed Oracle founder wished to relocate the franchise.

“We’re not even taking into account Ellison,” Heisley said. “This team cannot be moved.”

Heisley has maintained for years that — even though he never took the Grizzlies off the market — he hasn’t been actively shopping the team. The Grizzlies were widely bashed for the Gasol deal that eventually helped the Los Angeles Lakers win championships in 2009 and 2010, but Heisley has hushed some of the feedback during the previous 2 seasons by signing Zach Randolph, Rudy Gay and Marc Gasol to lucrative agreements among longstanding disbelief regarding his eagerness to spend.

The Grizzlies suffered an upsetting 1st-round exit this season after blowing a 24-point lead in the 4th quarter against the LA Clippers in Game 1 and then losing Game 7. But in 2011, after the 1st-round upset of 61-win San Antonio, Heisley related: “I think, quite overtly, that we’re placed to be a real factor for this league going forward.”

After this season’s early exit, Heisley described the Grizzlies’ achievements as “miraculous” given the loss of key reserve Darrell Arthur to a ripped Achilles tendon during training camp and Randolph’s 37-game absence as a result of a torn MCL in his right knee.

The Chicago-based Heisley acquired the Grizzlies in 2k when they were located in Vancouver and moved the organization to Memphis beginning with the 2001-02 season.


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