It was a surprise when Leslie Alexander put the Houston Rockets up for sale, but there were 2.2 billion reasons it turned out to be a good deal for him.
Last week the NBA Board of Governors (the owners) approved the sale and Houston businessman Tilman J. Fertitta is now officially the owner of the Rockets. The sale closed on Friday. Alexander bought the team for $85 million in 1993.
“I could not be happier,” Fertitta said in a released statement. “To own the Rockets in my hometown of Houston is a dream come true. I promise to continue to make this city proud of the Rockets and to do what we can to bring home a championship.”
Fertitta was a minority owner of the team back in the 1980s. He has gone on to make his fortune as the owner of the Landry’s restaurant empire — Bubba Gump, Mortons, Rainforest Cafe, and others — as well as the Golden Nugget Casinos and Hotels. There are no other minority owners in the transaction as of now (there were celebrities such as Houston native Beyoncé interested in that role).
“I have been friends with Tilman since 1993, so it is my great honor to announce that Tilman and his family have been able to fulfill their dream of owning the Houston Rockets,” Alexander said in a statement. “Tilman’s passion, commitment to excellence, and unrivaled love for the city of Houston are going to serve him well as a great owner of this proud franchise.”
Fertitta takes over a franchise that is $2.5 million over the luxury tax line for this season, with that number likely to spike as Chris Paul becomes a free agent next summer (assuming the Rockets plan to keep him, likely with a max or near max contract). The Rockets also turned a $53 million profit last season, according to an internal NBA report leaked to ESPN. Will Fertitta continue to spend money to keep a contender on the court? Probably, he said he wants to bring the city a title (and that will cost), but any time a new owner takes over it’s something to watch.