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Of course Michael Heisley is in talks with Larry Ellison, things were going too well

Mar 17, 2012, 5:30 PM EDT

Oklahoma City Thunder v Memphis Grizzlies - Game Six Getty Images

Best season in franchise history from an overall success and excitement standpoint. First playoff game victory. First playoff series victory. Significant improvements in fan interest and long-term viability of on-court production. Things have been going really well in Memphis, Tennessee when it comes to the Grizzlies.

So, of course, this is happening. From the Memphis Commercial-Appeal:

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 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.”

via Oracle Corp.’s Ellison inquires about buying Grizzlies; Heisley downplays possibility » The Commercial Appeal.

I’m not trying to be a negative nellie here, but that to me reads as “I can’t downplay it enough. I want to sell it to someone who doesn’t exist, and this person that does exist and will move the team and has been desperate to get a team for two years is interested, but seriously, no worries.”

Yeah, that’s not good for the Grizzlies sticking around.

If you want more proof — Matt Steinmetz of reports the talks are in an “advanced stage.” Heisley and Ellison may already have a “handshake agreement” according to the report. This just does not look good at all.

Heisley has been consistent in saying he wants to sell. He has resisted investing in a losing team, which you can’t really blame him for. He’s finally put his money where his mouth is in the past year and a half though, handing out contracts to Mike Conley, Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. He recently traded Sam Young for a player not playing in the NBA to avoid the luxury tax. Finances are on the guy’s mind and Memphis is a hard town to pull profit in.

Ellison on the other hand made a swing for the Hornets last year but was rebuffed. If you want some political intrigue, the California teams are wary of another team moving into their markets, especially the Warriors.

Heisley is on record as saying this isn’t a big deal. I can’t stress that enough. He said this isn’t the first pitch Ellison has made, and that there are other suitors, with one matching his $350 million price tag on the team. It’s just concerning because the more Memphis wins, the better value they are for a seller, and while many fans think Memphis is unworthy of having a team, they’ve responded to the Grizz being competitive and “tough” like the town is. Losing them to yet another California zipcode (making it five teams in one state) seems unfortunate for basketball coast to coast.

(HT: Inside Hoops)

  1. goforthanddie - Mar 17, 2012 at 6:22 PM

    Interesting that the NBA has a team ready to sell, yet Ellison is looking elsewhere. If Stern had a brain, he’d pitch camp in Ellison’s front yard and not leave til the Hornets were sold.

    • kinggw - Mar 17, 2012 at 7:13 PM

      I guess you missed the news where the NBA secured a lease for the Hornets, keeping them in New Orleans until at least 2024.

      • goforthanddie - Mar 17, 2012 at 8:27 PM

        Really. That seems kinda dumb, but that’s one man’s thinking.

      • david8726 - Mar 17, 2012 at 8:51 PM

        That’s a “face palm worthy” investment if I’ve ever heard of one.

      • redstar504 - Mar 18, 2012 at 5:19 AM

        Don’t know if you missed that too but the Hornets have been sold for sometime as well. LA Businessman Raj Bhathal, Tom Benson’s brother Larry Benson, and Mike Dunleavy for all intents and purposes have purchased the Hornets. The holdup was getting the lease extended and redone with the State of Louisiana. That is out of the way so expect the sale to go thru in the next few days.

  2. hawknuts - Mar 17, 2012 at 6:32 PM

    chris hansen in seattle will buy your team

  3. chiadam - Mar 17, 2012 at 7:10 PM

    …just as soon as he’s done interviewing online predators.

    • hojo20 - Mar 17, 2012 at 7:34 PM

      It was my first time doing this, Mr Hansen, I swear.

  4. mbrester - Mar 17, 2012 at 7:55 PM

    The Grizzlies are not leaving Memphis any time before the FedExForum is paid for in 2031. A new owner would have pay millions for a arena he would not use and pay millions for the team and pay millions to the NBA to move it. It makes no sense to buy and move the Grizzlies now. In 2031 it may not make sense to move them then.

  5. gmsalpha - Mar 17, 2012 at 9:37 PM

    The West Coast has technically lost two teams in the original Grizzlies from Vancouver, and the SuperSonics. What’s the harm in getting one back? If the owner wants to sell and there’s no local buyer, what’s he supposed to do? He shouldn’t be forced to keep a team he doesn’t want. It’s not as if this move is going to be to Anaheim or San Diego or somewhere that really steps on the feet of the SoCal folks, anyway.

    • goforthanddie - Mar 17, 2012 at 10:13 PM

      Seattle’s been “promised” a team and has an arena lined up. Problem is, said arena won’t be built w/o guaranteed NBA AND NHL occupants.

  6. glink123 - Mar 18, 2012 at 12:10 AM

    millions? you’re seriously worried about a guy like Ellison having to pay millions? his net worth is between $36 and $50 billion, depending on the week and the price of Oracle stock. he could afford to buy every team in the NBA, and still have $10 billion left over.

    • borderline1988 - Mar 18, 2012 at 11:28 AM

      Larry Ellison is also the highest paid CEO in the world. Over the last decade, he has been paid close to $2 billion.

      Honestly, to Larry Elisson, NBA teams and their finances are like nickels and dimes. He could sneeze and the $350 million needed to purchase the Grizzlies might fall out of his shirt pocket.

  7. starvingardens - Mar 18, 2012 at 12:41 AM

    Oh man… Does anyone really know who Larry Ellison is? “All he wants to do is… win win win win win!” In business, America’s Cup, etc. If he buys this team, I bet he moves the team, to San Francisco.

    He’s still pissed about not being able to acquire the Warriors and thinks he got duped. And because of that… he’s gonna stick the team right back in their faces by bringing another franchise to the bay right beside AT&T.

    And you know what… If he does. I’m all good with that.

  8. glink123 - Mar 18, 2012 at 3:53 PM

    It doesn’t really matter what he’s been “paid” as CEO of Oracle over the past decade, because it’s his company. It’s his company stock that matters. He chose to pay himself “only” 2 billion in salary over the past decade as CEO of Oracle, while he was awarded over 36 billion in stock options over the same period. It’s like Sergei Brin (co-founder of Google) only pays himself a $1 annual salary, but his Google stock options he owns make him worth roughly $20 billion.

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