We told you yesterday Michigan native and billionaire Tom Gores was now the front runner to purchase the Detroit Pistons.
The Associated Press is now reporting he has a 30-day exclusive window to purchase the team. If a deal is worked out, it could be presented to the Board of Governors (the other NBA owners) for approval All-Star Weekend.
But the deal is not finalized. Mike Ilitch was in an exclusive negotiating period when he got a good look at the Pistons books and dramatically lowered his offer.
We don’t know what Gores will offer for the team. While Forbes last estimated the worth of the Pistons at more than $400 million, the devastating effects of the national economy on Michigan, combined with the struggles of the Pistons team, have others estimating that the sale price will be well below Forbes estimates.
Gores is the founder, chairman and CEO of Platinum Equity. Gores and his firm make their money buying distressed companies, turning them around and selling them for a profit.
The Pistons are owned by Karen Davidson, who took control of the team when her husband Bill passed away in 2009.
Tom Gores, a Michigan native worth an estimated $2.2 billion, will complete his purchase of the Detroit Pistons as soon as next week, the Detroit News reports.
It may well take longer to complete the deal, but the goal is to have the sale done in time to present it to the NBA Board of Governors — the other owners — at their meeting All-Star Weekend, Feb. 18 to 20 in Los Angeles.
Gores was raised in Flint, went to Michigan State, used to sell computer equipment in Michigan but moved to California and now is the man behind Platinum Equity, which is a power in the leveraged buyout business.
He is a guy known for buying struggling businesses and turning them into something profitable. He’s also known as a guy who does not overpay for properties he buys. Forbes had estimated the Pistons (and the Palace at Auburn Hills) to be worth $480 million, but with the down economy hitting Michigan very hard, and the slumping play of the Pistons hurting the team’s gate, this sale is likely for considerably less. No actual sale price has been leaked.
The Pistons are owned by Karen Davidson, who took control of the team after the passing of her husband Bill. She has worked with Citibank as her agent to sell the Pistons.
It appeared Mike Ilitch — the Little Caesars Pizza founder and already owner of the Red Wings and Tigers in Detroit — was going to purchase the team and had an exclusive negotiating agreement after coming is as the high bidder. However, after getting a look at the actual books of the franchise he decreased his offer dramatically. Soon the process was again opened to others.
Now it appears Gores is on the verge of completing purchase of the team. He declined to comment when approached by the Detroit News at last week’s Lakers/Pistons game in Los Angeles (where he lives now).
Karen Davidson inherited the Detroit Pistons when her husband Bill passed away last year. The Pistons were his passion, not hers, she didn’t want to run a team. So she hired Citi Private Bank Sports Advisory to help her sell the Pistons and the Palace.
They found a buyer in Michael Ilitch — who already owned the Detroit Red Wings and Tigers. It seemed a great fit as the founder of the Little Caesars Pizza had plenty of cash to make the deal happen (he is worth $1.7 billion).
Then it hit a stumbling block recently. Forbes’ Mike Ozanian explained what happened.
According to one person familiar with the negotiations, after agreeing to a price in excess of $400 million (my source was not more specific), Ilitch discovered the revenues presented in the prospectus were inflated. Ilitch, one of the great gentleman owners in sports, got pissed, lowered his offer price and the deal quickly blew up. I hope to find out more about the actual price in the near future. But from what I am hearing it will now be hard for Davidson to get $400 million for the team given the Ilitch debacle and dismal state of Detroit’s economy.
It is possible Ilitch still ends up with the team, but it looks like this is going to take a while.
Reports came out yesterday — ones even briefly echoed on this blog — that a number of Middle Eastern investors were in talks to buy the Detroit Pistons.
But that is not the case, the NBA told Tom Ziller of SBNation. The league called it a miscommunication between NBA commissioner David Stern and a foreign reporter. The league says Stern simply said the league was open to foreign investment, not that talks about a specific team were underway.
Mike Illitch — the owner of Detroit’s Red Wings and Tigers, who made his money as the founder of Little Cesar’s Pizza — had been in exclusive negotiations to buy the team, but terms of the deal have not been finalized. Karen Davidson took over control of the team after the death of her husband, and she quickly looked to sell the team.
Mike Ilitch, the owner of the Detroit Red Wings and Tigers, is working on the final details to purchase the Detroit Pistons, according to the Associated Press and Crains Detroit Business Journal.
Current Pistons owner Karen Davidson (who took control when her husband Bill died) had said she wanted to have the team sold by the start of the season. It appears that the two sides may well have an agreement by then, although the sale cannot go through until the NBA Board of Governors (the owners) approve the sale, which likely will take a little longer.
The price is not yet known, although it is expected to be maybe $100 million less than the $450 million value estimated by Forbes last year.
This decision — when there were other suitors lined up — is a little bit of a surprise because of bad blood between Ilitch’s holding company and Davidson’s Palace Sports and Entertainment (which has included trips to court). However, Davidson said she had wanted to make sure the Pistons would not leave Detroit and this makes that a certainty.
Ilitch made his money as the founder of the Little Caesars pizza chain. Ilitch would become the only person to own teams in three of the four major sports leagues in the United States (NFL bylaws would prevent him from buying the Lions without selling the other teams).
It could be a good thing for a Pistons team that had been a powerhouse in much of the 2000s (what is the right name for that decade?) but had slipped in recent years and is on the verge of needing to rebuild on the court. Ilitch has had the Red Wings as one of the top teams in hockey during his tenure, and has done reasonably well in baseball (considering the tortured economics of that sport and competing with the big boys).
Ilitch has already started the planning for a new downtown Detroit arena that would house the Red Wings and now the Pistons, as part of a revival of that area. That deal now seems to take a step forward.
Owning three teams opens up some interesting ideas in terms of selling sponsorship and advertising for the three entieites.