Michael Heisley Explains Decision to Sell the Memphis Grizzlies

Memphis Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley confirmed media reports that he’s found a buyer for his basketball franchise, and citing health concerns, the 75-year old Heisley says the decision was a no-brainer. From NBA.com and Fox Sports: “Heisley has owned the Grizzlies since 2000, when the franchise was in Vancouver. He bought the team from then-owner John McCaw and said he would keep the team in Canada. But the Grizzlies moved to Memphis in 2001 after looking at potential locations in Anaheim and New Orleans. Heisley said that [Robert] Pera first came to him ‘two or three’ months ago. At that point, Heisley again reached out to some of the team’s minority owners, who had expressed for years a desire to purchase a majority stake in the franchise. But Pera was able to close the sale. ‘I’ve made it clear for some time if somebody came up with the right offer, I’d consider selling the team,’ Heisley said. ‘It wasn’t a secret in Memphis or, really, around the country. I wasn’t trying to sell the team (actively). I don’t know the gentleman who’s buying the team personally; he came to see me.’ […] Heisley said a contract was signed with billionaire Robert J. Pera. He said it was not discussed whether Pera ever might move the team, but that Grizzlies have an ironclad lease to remain in Memphis until at least 2021. ‘I have stepped aside from my companies,’ Heisley said. ‘I’m 75 years of age. I had a couple of medical problems this year (with his heart). I thought the team was in good shape. Fan base was in good shape. I thought if the opportunity presented itself, I would sell the team.’ […] The only way that the lease, which runs through 2021, can be broken is if the Grizzlies fail to meet certain benchmarks in either attendance, suite sales or club seat sales at the arena. If the Grizzlies fall short, according to a source with knowledge of the terms of the lease, Heisley could sell the team, but the city would have the right of first refusal to match the sale price. If the city didn’t match, the new owner would be free to leave if he paid the buyout terms in full. This past season’s payment would have been $107 million, according to the source. The price drops to just under $105 million next year. In 2014, it falls to just above $101 million. In 2015, it falls below $100 million, to $97 million, and in 2016, the payment would be $94 million. Heisley said Pera has not had any conversations with him about moving. ‘We made it clear (to the local businessmen and minority owners) that there had been no discussions about moving the team on his part and our part, and that the team was there through 2021, minimum,’ Heisley said. ‘…The guy (Pera) had no real interest in moving the team. He didn’t say he wouldn’t, but he didn’t say he would.'”