SBD/Issue 87/Franchises

Source: Pistons Not For Sale But Could Be In Not-So-Distant Future

Davidson Could Sell Pistons And Palace
Sports & Entertainment In Near Future
The Pistons are "not for sale but could be in the not-so-distant future," according to a source cited by Vince Ellis of the DETROIT FREE PRESS. At issue is whether team Owner Karen Davidson "wants to continue to own an NBA franchise." It is also unknown what she "wants to do, if anything," with Palace Sports & Entertainment. The source said that it is "believed that any decision to sell the team right now would not be made solely by Davidson but by a collection of the heirs and trustees" of Bill Davidson's estate (FREEP.com, 1/18). In Detroit, Gallagher & Ellis note "adding more complexity to the mix was speculation that a sale could include a partnership with the Ilitch family, perhaps to build an arena that would host the Pistons and the Ilitch-owned" Red Wings. In the "most basic formula possible, Karen Davidson could sell the Pistons and, perhaps separately, Palace Sports & Entertainment" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 1/19).

KEEPING THEIR OPTIONS OPEN: In Detroit, Chris McCosky notes the Red Wings have "yet to renew their lease with Joe Louis Arena" beyond this season, and although Red Wings GM Ken Holland said that he "fully expects the team to play at the arena next season, the Ilitch family has been seeking other options." Sources said that the idea of forming a partnership between the Pistons and Red Wings ownership groups "to build and share one sports complex has been discussed." Sources said that the Pistons "would consider moving back downtown in such a shared venue." But those talks are "extremely preliminary." With Davidson "looking to sell the team and arena, the new ownership group would have to be on board with the idea" (DETROIT NEWS, 1/19).

ESTATE PLANNING: Sources noted that the "process of settling the huge Davidson estate is mind-numbingly complex and will take at least several years to complete." There is "no telling how much the Pistons, Palace and other properties might fetch if and when Karen Davidson decides to sell them." The DETROIT FREE PRESS' Tom Walsh: "Selling the Pistons today would be like selling a stock at its 52-week low, which is just one of several reasons not to expect a big deal right away" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 1/19).

FOUR SCORE: In Detroit, Michael Rosenberg writes Detroit "needs a new generation of sports ownership for all four of its pro teams." The last time a Detroit team was sold was in '92, when the Ilitch family bought the Tigers from Tom Monaghan. That is a "combined 72 consecutive years of continuous ownership for Detroit's four teams." The team with the "most certain future is the one that has the most pathetic present." The Lions "surely will end up in the hands" of Vice Chair Bill Ford Jr., and "while nobody knows if he will be a great owner, he should at least be a different owner" than his father. Mike Ilitch "seems poised to hand the reins to his son Chris," but that is "not as clear a line of succession as it might seem" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 1/19).

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