Rockets owner Leslie Alexander has reached an agreement to sell the team to Houston billionaire Tilman Fertitta for an NBA-record $2.2 billion, according to multiple reports on Tuesday morning.
Fox 26 Sports’ Mark Berman first broke the news:
Then came reports of how much Fertitta — dubbed “the world’s richest restaurateur” by Forbes magazine, which listed him among the 250 wealthiest people in America at a net worth of $3.1 billion — will reportedly pay for the franchise:
The reported $2.2 billion price tag would exceed the previous NBA record of $2 billion, which former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer paid for the Los Angeles Clippers in 2014. Fertitta will presumably be the lead investor of the ownership group purchasing the Rockets from Alexander, who surprisingly put the team up for sale in mid-July. Alexander purchased the NBA franchise for $85 million in July 1993.
Still entrenched in the community of the nation’s fourth-largest city, Alexander recently pledged $10 million to Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner’s Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund. The sale to Fertitta, a native of Galveston, Texas, will ensure the organization stays in the hands of an owner invested in Houston.
“I am excited to welcome and pass the torch to Tilman,” Alexander told the Houston Chronicle. “He is a Houstonian, business leader and committed to the success and excellence of the Rockets both on and off the basketball court.
“I have personally known Tilman for over 24 years and don’t think I could have found anyone more capable of continuing the winning tradition of our Houston Rockets.”
The Rockets won 55 games last season and reached the Western Conference semifinals behind James Harden’s MVP-caliber campaign. The team traded for All-Star point guard Chris Paul in June and gave Harden the richest contract extension in history, cementing Houston as a championship contender.
Fertitta is the sole owner of Landry’s Inc., a restaurant corporation that includes the Morton’s and McCormick and Schmick’s steakhouses as well as Rainforest Cafe and Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. franchises. The 60-year-old is the star of CNBC’s “Billion Dollar Buyer.” He also owns the Golden Nugget Hotel and Casinos, a role that led him to sell a stake in the Houston Texans due to NFL rules precluding owners from ownership stakes in gambling-related enterprises. The NBA has no such rule.
“I am truly honored to have been chosen as the next owner of the Houston Rockets,” Fertitta said in a statement, via the Chronicle. “This is a lifelong dream come true.
“Leslie Alexander has been one of the best owners in all of sports, and I thank him immensely for this opportunity. He has the heart of a champion. Lastly, out of respect for the NBA’s approval process, I can say no more other than I am overwhelmed with emotion to have this opportunity in my beloved city of Houston.”
Fertitta attempted to purchase the Rockets in 1993 and actually tried to block the sale when Alexander outbid him 24 years ago. He then served as a minority owner and advisory director for the team during the organization’s run to back-to-back NBA championships before selling his stake in 1995.
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