|It appears Memphis will be enjoying the Grizzlies for a long time. (Getty Images)|
ESPN and the Memphis Commercial-Appeal report California tech mogul Robert Pera will have his bid for transfer of ownership of the Memphis Grizzlies voted on and approved by the NBA Board of Governors at their meeting on Thursday.
Pera had faced concerns about his financing for the project after his company suffered substantial losses over the summer and faced concerns about deals that wound up involving Iran. But Pera has seemingly solved the problem by assembling the NBA ownership version of the Avengers.
Besides Pera, the ownership group includes:
Former music superstar, current megastar actor and intrepid businessman Justin Timberlake;
Broncos quarterback (that still sounds weird) Peyton Manning and his wife, Ashley, a native of Memphis;
Former NBA star Penny Hardaway;
Autozone founder J.R. "Pitt" Hyde and fund manager Staley Cates (minority owners under current owner Michael Heisley);
Former Congressman Harold Ford Jr.;
Financier Stephen Kaplan.
That's a lot of hands in one jar, but it's nothing new. The Commercial-Appeal notes the Sixers have a 15-person ownership group.
More important than the number of owners, though, might be the structure of the deal. It has specific provisions to keep the team in Memphis long-term. This team isn't going anywhere. From the Commercial-Appeal:
In the summer, Pera agreed to a series of three provisions that secured the team in Memphis for another 15 years: 1) a $100-million penalty if the team is moved, 2) a right of first refusal under which the local owners will be able to match any offer Pera receives to sell the team and 3) the right for the locals to buy the team from Pera at the current price if he wants to move it.
"These guys totally get it," Cates said at the time. "We think this can also amp up what the (Grizzlies) foundation does because we think they'll let the team work more closely with it. ... These guys have always planned on staying in Memphis in the long haul. This memorialized it."
Between that and the arena lease with FedEx Forum, the team isn't going anywhere. The Grizzlies are locked in for the long term. It should come as a relief for Grizzlies fans who have dealt with owner Michael Heisley's constant waffling about the team and its profit margin.
It's a good sign for a city that has embraced the team after years of being as apathetic. Make no mistake, the crowd will still be 50-50 when the Lakers come to town (if that). Once Zach Randolph slows and Rudy Gay's contract is moved, there will be empty seats and hard times. But if Pera and Co. follow Chris Wallace's model of building a tough, hard-nosed team that the city can identify with, fans will come back. The last three years have taught us that Memphis isn't a bad NBA city -- it's just one that you have to connect with its cultural nerve to reach.
Maybe a California tech mogul and the guy who brought sexy back (along with the guy who brought the Broncos back on MNF a week ago -- seriously, Phillip Rivers?!) can keep that connection alive. Either way, Memphis and the Grizzlies are tied to one another, now, and that starts to become official on Thursday.
The owners are unanimously expected to approve the sale. Once a guy finds a bidder with an acceptable structure, the league almost always approves it. The league has conducted a vetting process into any sort of questions about the proposal. If there were such issues, it wouldn't have gotten to the point of a vote. All signs point to Pera taking ownership along with the crew within the next month.