Californian Larry Ellison, ranked as the third-richest person in the U.S., has inquired about buying the Memphis Grizzlies with apparent hopes of moving the team to San Jose.
But majority team owner Michael Heisley today downplayed the possibility of a sale — and of a relocation, citing a lease that ties the franchise to Memphis and FedExForum until 2021.
“I can’t downplay it enough. If it happens I’ll be surprised,” said Heisley, a Chicago-based billionaire who added that talks had not become serious. “It’s in the initial stages. We’ve handled this just like we’ve handled several other dozen requests. My situation in Memphis has not changed a lick. My preference will always be for somebody in Memphis to buy the team. There’s not any interest in Memphis. But we’ve always made it known that if somebody wants to buy the team, we’ll listen. If they’re real buyers we’ll probably be sellers. So far there hasn’t been anyone willing to buy the team under my terms and for my price.”
Ellison, CEO of software giant Oracle Corp., is worth $36 billion, according to Forbes. He has made unsuccessful attempts to buy the NBA’s New Orleans Hornets and Golden State Warriors. Ellison has inquired about the Grizzlies before over the past five years.
Heisley, who is asking $350 million for the Griz, insisted that team’s contractual obligations would require consent from the city and the league for a move before 2021. Heisley also acknowledged that the Griz currently have three individuals looking to buy the team. But Heisley said he doesn’t have a signed purchase agreement with any suitor.
Memphian Andy Cates, one of Heisley's local minority-share owners, said, "Mike has been a good owner for Memphis, and we appreciate the fact that he brought the team here and has built a good franchise.
“There has always been interest in acquiring the team by locals, but we’ve never been able to agree on terms, and therefore have not been able to move forward.”
Edited by LALakersFan4Life, March 17, 2012 - 02:23 PM.