Michael Heisley Agrees To Sell Memphis Grizzlies to Robert J. Pera

June 13, 2012 – 8:00 am by Eric Schmoldt

Michael Heisley has been looking to sell the Memphis Grizzlies for years. On Tuesday, it leaked out that it appears that he has found a buyer. Heisley said he doesn’t know how that information got out, but he eventually concerned that, while the sale is still in the early stages, he’s agreed to sell the club to 34-year-old billionaire Robert J. Pera.

ESPN reported that the sale will go for approximately $350 million. Heisley said he would have preferred to sell it to someone living in Memphis, but nobody was interested for that kind of money. However, he also said he doesn’t believe Pera has any intention of moving the Grizzlies elsewhere.

Michael Heisley joined WHBQ in Memphis with Sportstime to discuss selling the Grizzlies, if he would compare Robert Pera, the perspective buyer, to Mark Cuban, why this deal worked when one headed by Christian Laettner in 2006 did not, what was different in the process this time around, how the deal will not being finalized for a while and why he believes the Grizzlies will stay in Memphis.

On selling the Grizzlies:

“I think the situation for me is that I’ve stepped back away from my business. I have, for some time, told people that if the right opportunity presents itself, that I would sell the team. Mr. Pera came along and he was interested in buying the team. I didn’t handle the negotiations. … My lawyer handled most of the negotiations.”

Do you see a comparison between him and Mark Cuban?:

“I’ve had two or three meetings with him. There’s no question he has tremendous enthusiasm for basketball. He’s a big fan. I can tell you he’s a self-made man and he’s very, very bright and tremendously energetic. His business takes him all over the world. About 80 or 90 percent of his sales take place overseas … and mostly in underdeveloped countries. He’s very energetic, 30-some years of age. I’m not going to say he reminds me of Mark. I don’t think he’s as flamboyant as Mark.”

How is this time different than in 2006 when Brian Davis and Christian Laettner failed?:

“To begin with, he has a viable company. When people say he’s declining in wealth, if the stock market goes down or the market for his product goes down, his company has an extremely high multiply to earnings. … It’s like saying the guy that has Facebook is ready to go broke. It dropped billions of dollars, but it has billions in it. I don’t know what it is right now, but it had a market capital of $3 billion and he owns 60 percent of it.”

Did you do anything different in the process this time around?:

“We basically did check out his financial situation, but we did with Brian Davis, too. A lot has been said about Brian Davis. The reality is nobody’s ever mentioned that he had a line from Citibank for $150 million. His real problem wasn’t that. His real problem was what wealth he had was tied up in real estate. … The league requires you to put up I think 30-some percent of the purchase price in your own money and equity and they couldn’t sell their real estate. … At least that’s my understanding.”

On the sale not being finalized yet:

“It’s early in the game. He’s got to be vetted. The NBA offices have got to approve it and then the Board of Governors has got to approve it. It’s almost like people are pushing the process like it’s going to happen in the next two weeks. … It’s going to take at least a couple months.”

Were there discussions with Pera about keeping the team in Memphis?:

“We made it very clear since Day One with Mr. Pera that the team was to be in Memphis, that it may be difficult to get the league to take it out of Memphis and if that’s what was in their plans, then they shouldn’t be talking to us. That never was part of the conversation, ever. … I just don’t know why there is a fixation on this team leaving Memphis. As I’ve said many times, it’s going to be here through 2021 by contract, but it’s not just that. If the fans support the team, the NBA is going to have a lot to say whether the team gets moved or not.”

Listen to Michael Heisley on WHBQ in Memphis here

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