Sources: Ellison in advanced talks to buy Grizzlies

Sources: Ellison in advanced talks to buy Grizzlies
March 17, 2012, 9:04 pm
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It looks like Larry Ellison is closer to getting into the NBA game.Ellison, the Oracle Corp. CEO and one of the richest men in the world, is in advanced talks with Memphis owner Michael Heisley to buy the Grizzlies, according to multiple sources.Two of those sources said it is possible that Ellison and Heisley have a handshake agreement on the transaction.Earlier Saturday, the Memphis Commercial Appeal reported that Heisley confirmed Ellison has inquired about buying the team. But he downplayed the chances of it actually happening.I cant downplay it enough, Heisley told the Commercial Appeal. If it happens, Ill be surprised. Its in the initial stages. Weve handled this just like weve 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. Theres not any interest in Memphis. But weve always made it known that if somebody wants to buy the team, well listen. If theyre real buyers well probably be sellers. So far, there hasnt been anyone willing to buy the team under my terms and for my price.
This is not the first time Ellison has attempted to buy an NBA team. He was a finalist to buy the Warriors in the summer of 2010, but lost out to Joe Lacobs ownership group.
Ellison also confirmed in early January that he tried to buy the New Orleans Hornets but was outbid by the NBA, which currently owns that team.It is unknown whether Ellison would want to move the Grizzlies if he buys them. It has long been speculated that Ellison would try to move an NBA team to San Jose if he ever bought one.When Ellison confirmed he tried to buy the Hornets, he said he had no plan to move the franchise to San Jose.Said Ellison: I was trying to buy the team first, and then figure out what I was going to do with it.Heisley has acknowledged hes willing to sell the team, but he also has maintained that he is committed to selling the franchise to an owner who wants to keep the team in Memphis.Heisley is part of a group that is bidding to buy the Los Angeles Dodgers, which has raised questions about his desire to hold onto the Grizzlies.The Dodgers are expected to eventually be sold for upwards of 1 billion. Heisley, who has an estimated net worth of 1.5 billion, bought the Grizzlies when they were in Vancouver in 2000.In 2006, he agreed to sell his 70 percent controlling interest in the team to a group that included Christian Laettner and Brian Davis. But the deal fell through, and Heisley remained the owner.If Ellison buys the Grizzlies and seeks to relocate the franchise, it would likely be challenging. The team has a restrictive lease with the city and there would no doubt be legal challenges. The FedEx Forum lease runs through 2021, but according to one source, there are attendance clauses that kick in during 2017 that would allow the team to move if certain thresholds are not met.Trying to move the team to San Jose, specifically, would likely be even more difficult. Warriors owner Joe Lacob has said repeatedly that he considers San Jose part of Golden States domain and that he doubts the league would ever approve such a move.It is unknown whether David Stern or the NBA has ever given Lacob that assurance.According to three sources, Lacob and the Warriors ownership team know that Ellison is trying to buy Memphis. When Ellison was trying to buy the Warriors from previous owner Chris Cohan, he was partnered with four of franchises minority owners at the time.Sources confirmed that the former Warriors minority group comprised of Jim Davidson, Michael Marks and John Thompson are not a part of Ellisons bid in Memphis.Fred Harman, a fourth minority under Cohan, stayed on as part of Lacobs ownership group.What would likely complicate a move to San Jose further is that the Kings recently received authorization to build a new downtown arena, making it a foregone conclusion that the Kings will remain in Sacramento.It is not known whether the NBA would be willing to have three teams in Northern California.

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