SBD/March 19, 2012/Franchises

Oracle CEO Ellison Inquires About Buying Grizzlies, Relocating Team To San Jose

Ellison has made unsuccessful attempts to buy the Hornets and the Warriors
Oracle Founder & CEO Larry Ellison has "inquired about buying the Memphis Grizzlies with apparent hopes of moving the team to San Jose," according to Ronald Tillery of the Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL. But team Owner Michael Heisley on Saturday "downplayed the possibility of a sale -- and of a relocation, citing a lease that ties the franchise to Memphis and FedExForum" until '21. Heisley said, "I can't downplay it enough. If it happens I'll be surprised." He added that talks "had not become serious." Heisley: "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." Ellison has made "unsuccessful attempts to buy" the Hornets and the Warriors. He has also "previously inquired about the Grizzlies over the past five years." Heisley, who is asking $350M for the franchise, "insisted that the team's contractual obligations would require consent from the city and the league" for a move before '21. Heisley also acknowledged that the Grizzlies "currently have three individuals looking to buy the team," but he noted that he "doesn't have a signed purchase agreement with any suitor" (Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL, 3/18).

DIFFERENT PERSEPCTIVE: In N.Y., Ben Rothenberg noted Ellison, who also owns the BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament is "ready to apply his philosophies to other professional sports." He said, "If it makes sense, I’m going to buy a basketball team. Not at a crazy price. I'm not going to set the record for having spent the most money ever in the history of the NBA for a basketball team." Ellison added, "I think there are a bunch of things you can do to make basketball better, in terms of a better experience for the fans....I think a lot of the stadiums really aren’t very good." He said, "A lot of the stadiums make no sense to me. You’re sitting so far away from the game" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/18).
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