Heisley selling Grizzlies to communications technology executive

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Michael Heisley, who moved the Grizzlies from Vancouver to Memphis over 10 years ago, is selling the team to a group owned by communications technology executive Robert J. Pera.

The team announced the sale agreement Monday in a news release that did not disclose financial terms, although ESPN.com reported the price to be $350 million. The sale is pending the approval of the NBA Board of Governors, antitrust clearance and other conditions.

Heisley, 75, bought the Grizzlies in 2000, when the franchise was located in western Canada. The following year, he moved the team to Memphis.

Under Heisley’s ownership, the Grizzlies made the playoffs from 2004-06, getting swept in the first round each time and compiling 12 straight postseason losses, a record at the time.

Among the bolder moves made by management during Heisley’s ownership were the hiring of Jerry West in 2002 after he left his personnel position with the Lakers, the trade of All-Star Pau Gasol to the Lakers in 2008 and the brief signing of Allen Iverson in 2009.

The Grizzlies have made the playoffs each of the last two years, upsetting the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs before losing to the Oklahoma City Thunder in seven games a year ago and losing in seven games to the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round this season.

For some time, Heisley had a reputation as a frugal owner as the Grizzlies’ payroll hovered below or at the salary cap and never approached the luxury tax. But recently Heisley has shown a willingness to pay for talent, signing starters Rudy Gay, Mike Conley, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol to lucrative long-terms contract extensions totaling more than $260 million.

“I have enjoyed my ownership of the Grizzlies and the support for professional basketball in Memphis,” Heisley said in a statament. “I am confident that the franchise will continue its development toward being a perennial championship contender and an important member of the Memphis community.

“I am particularly gratified that we have put together a team which is poised to continue its improvement. We have an outstanding team of players, coaching staff, and basketball and business management. In Robert, we have a new owner who has expressed a total commitment to build on our success in Memphis.”

Pera is the founder and CEO of Ubiquiti Networks, a publicly traded communications technology company. Just 34 years old, he was a wireless engineer with Apple before leaving the technology giant in 2005 to start Ubiquiti, which went public in 2011, making Pera a billionaire.

Pera is single and lives in San Jose, Calif. He plays basketball several times a week.

 

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