SBD/November 5, 2012/Franchises

Robert Pera In First Act As Grizzlies Owner Names Jason Levien CEO

Pera (l) and Levien held a press conference this morning in Memphis
New Grizzlies Owner Robert Pera yesterday announced former 76ers minority shareholder Jason Levien is “joining the Grizzlies as the club's new CEO and managing partner,” according to Marc Stein of Levien, who “recently sold his stake in the Sixers to join Pera's ownership group, will be in charge of Memphis Basketball, LLC, which operates the Grizzlies and the FedExForum.” Levien will “oversee the NBA team while acting as the ownership group's managing partner and an alternate NBA governor.” Levien was part of the “Joshua Harris-led group that purchased the 76ers leading into the 2011-12 season.” He will “continue in his role as general partner of DC United in Major League Soccer, which he assumed in July when he and fellow Sixers minority owner Erick Thohir purchased the MLS club.” Sources said that Levien “took a lead role in assembling a star-studded ownership consortium which includes" entertainer Justin Timberlake, Broncos QB Peyton Manning and wife Ashley, former NBAer Penny Hardaway and former Congressman Harold Ford Jr. (, 11/4). In Memphis, Ronald Tillery writes there “no longer is any question as to who will take charge of drafts, trades or other important matters regarding every aspect” of the Grizzlies, as Levien “immediately supersedes general manager Chris Wallace's authority.” It is Levien who “decides what, if any role, Wallace will have with the team going forward” (Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL, 11/5).

ALLOW ME TO INTRODUCE MYSELF: In Memphis, Kyle Veazey noted Pera yesterday gave his “first public comments since agreeing earlier this year to buy” the Grizzlies. He and Levien “visited Memphis on March 27, when the Griz played the Timberwolves, and Pera said he sensed the ‘energy’ and the team's meaning to the city.” He said that the feeling “helped sell him not just on the team, but on its potential to make more of a connection.” Pera said, "I have a passion for marketing and branding, but I'm OK if I'm behind the scenes. I'll work on it, but I want to push Memphis, the team, the community and empower Jason to make the decision." He added, "I want to make this the highest-tech stadium in the NBA.” Levien “acknowledged a ‘task’ ahead of ensuring that a wide range of limited partners feel involved in the ownership group, but didn't think it was an unwieldy size.” He will be the “largest shareholder of the group but owns less than 50 percent of the team.” Pera and Levien “sidestepped a question asking for more details of the ownership group, including its size.” Pera said of his commitment to Memphis, "I consider myself a citizen of the world. … I don't really have strong ties to San Jose. What I do have is strong ties to the NBA. I'm really passionate about the NBA and I'm really passionate about changing the world, improving the world.” He added, “I'm passionate about Memphis because it seems like a really cool opportunity for the team to really influence the community, right? And that's up my alley" (Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL, 11/4). Also in Memphis, Geoff Calkins writes under the header, “So Far, The Kid Is All Right.” Youth did not stop the 34-year-old Pera from “stacking up enough money to buy an NBA team in the first place.” And youth “hasn't stopped him from doing a lot of smart things since he entered into the deal.” Calkins: “This could work out beautifully. Young and committed owner, young and committed franchise” (Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL, 11/5).

WINS TAKE CARE OF A LOT: SMC Entertainment President Fred Jones, who was a part of the original ownership group that brought the Grizzlies to Memphis, said that Pera’s ownership has “created a buzz in the community, but fans still care most about the success of the team on the court.” Jones noted that the team “simply needs to stay the course of what it has done with sponsorships and ticket sales.” Jones: “You can’t go wrong with stars like Justin, Penny and Peyton, but at the end of the day, what really excites the city is how the team performs on the floor. Ownership is good, but it’s about the product.” In Memphis, Michael Sheffield notes the Grizzlies have sold around 1,200 new season-tickets this season and have an “estimated 90 percent renewal rate for existing season tickets” (MEMPHIS BUSINESS JOURNAL, 11/2 issue).
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