Doesn’t it seem like Michael Heisley’s Memphis Grizzlies have been collecting dust on the back shelf for the entirety of their existence? Well guess what, folks—the franchise has finally been sold, and to one of the world’s youngest billionaires. At age 34, Robert Pera will be just four years older than Zach Randolph, the best player on his brand new basketball team. The purchase price is reported to be somewhere in the range of $350 million, or about 23 percent of Pera’s $1.5 billion net worth. Heisley bought the team as the Vancouver Grizzlies in 1999 for $160 million. Via ESPN…
After two consecutive trips to the playoffs and a return to respectability in the Western Conference, Michael Heisley has found a buyer to purchase the Memphis Grizzlies, according to sources with knowledge of the owner’s plans.
Sources told ESPN.com that Heisley has an agreement in principle to sell the team to communications technology magnate Robert Pera, who at 34 has a spot on Forbes’ list of the 10 youngest billionaries in the world.
The purchase price is in the $350 million range, sources said. A formal announcement to publicize the agreement between the parties is expected this week, possibly as soon as later Monday, with NBA Board of Governors approval then required before Pera can be officially installed as successor to Heisley, who recently 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 until the year 2021, with steep financial penalties attached to breaking that lease.
As far as we NBA fans are concerned, the big news here is that the team will remain in Memphis. ESPN’s report goes on to state that Heisley had been hesitant to negotiate with at least one other perspective buyer due to his desire to relocate the franchise. Heisley’s willingness to deal with Mr. Pera, along with the Fed Fex Forum lease, should offer the people of Memphis a sense of security. Although the Grizzlies are only 20th in the league in attendance, Memphis has shown that they’re willing to support a successful team. Since 2009 the Grizzlies have made annual improvements in the attendance rankings, climbing 10 spots from dead last in just four seasons. They ranked 13th back in ’05, the year they made their second playoff appearance. So, as long as Pera can continue to put a winner on the floor I think the Grizzlies will be fine. Being that he’s a 34-year-old billionaire with an interest in basketball, I’d say he’s got the necessary capital and ambition to do just that.
As should come standard with all matters involving the Memphis Grizzlies, here’s Tony Allen’s assessment of the situation.