The Memphis Commercial-Appeal reported Saturday the two had discussed a deal, but Heisley seemed to pass it off.
Ellison, the Oracle Corp. CEO and one of the richest men in the world, is in advanced talks with Memphis owner Michael Heisley to buy the Grizzlies, according to multiple sources.
Two of those sources said it is possible that Ellison and Heisley have a “handshake agreement” on the transaction.
Earlier Saturday, the Memphis Commercial Appeal reported that Heisley confirmed Ellison has inquired about buying the team. But he downplayed the chances of it actually happening.
“I can't downplay it enough,” Heisley told the Commercial Appeal. “If it happens, I'll be surprised. It's in the initial stages. We've handled this just like we've handled several other dozen requests. My situation in Memphis has not changed a lick.
“My preference will always be for somebody in Memphis to buy the team. There's not any interest in Memphis. But we've always made it known that if somebody wants to buy the team, we'll listen. If they're real buyers we'll probably be sellers. So far, there hasn't been anyone willing to buy the team under my terms and for my price.”
Besides making a run at the Warriors, Ellison also tried to purchase the Hornets, but was outbid by the NBA. There has been speculation that Ellison wants to move an NBA franchise to San Jose, if he were able to acquire one.
Heisley's willingness to sell the team may be related to him being part of a group looking to purchase the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers are expected to eventually be sold for upwards of $1 billion. Heisley, who has an estimated net worth of $1.5 billion, bought the Grizzlies when they were in Vancouver in 2000. Heisley attempted to sell 70 percent of his stake in the franchise in 2006, but that fell through.
Ellison would face obstacles if he tried to uproot the franchise. The Grizzlies have a lease with FedEx Forum that runs through 2021 and according to the report, have an attendance clause that doesn't kick in until 2017.
If Ellison were to bring a team to San Jose, that would make three teams in Northern California, something the NBA likely wouldn't be fond of. There's also the potential for relocating the team to Anaheim, or even Seattle.
Or just keeping them in Memphis.