What the sale of the stake in the Mavericks could mean for Mark Cuban and the Adelson family

News of Mark Cuban selling a majority stake of the Dallas Mavericks took the NBA world by collective surprise Tuesday night, when longtime NBA reporter Marc Stein detailed on his Substack that Cuban is moving forward on an agreement with the Las Vegas-based family of Miriam Adelson reportedly to sell a $2 billion slice of the franchise’s pie. On Wednesday, the family, as well as Adelson’s son-in-law and Las Vegas Sands Corp. president and COO, Patrick Dumont, released an official statement “targeting a closing of the transaction by year-end, subject to satisfaction of customary closing conditions and approval of the NBA Board of Governors.”

In hindsight, maybe this development shouldn't have come as such a shock. Cuban’s interest in pairing with the Sands Corp. has been public since last December, when he told The Dallas Morning News of a goal to partner with the Nevada company and build a new stadium to replace the Mavericks’ aging American Airlines Center. “When we build a new arena, it’ll be in the middle of a resort and casino,” Cuban said then. “That’s the mission.” Further, Cuban, who purchased the Mavericks for $285 million in 2000, has spoken openly during internal Dallas meetings about the team’s ongoing efforts to legalize sports gambling in Texas, league sources told Yahoo Sports, in order to bring such a vision with Las Vegas Sands to reality.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 25: Mark Cuban attends a basketball game between the Los Angeles Clippers and the Dallas Mavericks at Arena on November 25, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images)
Mark Cuban still has big plans for the Dallas Mavericks. (Photo by Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images)

The deal, according to The Athletic, puts the Mavericks at a reported valuation of $3.5 billion while still affording Cuban ultimate control of basketball operations. It’s not irregular for a minority shareholder to operate as an NBA club’s governor, and league rules state an ownership figure must control at least 15% of a franchise in order to grasp that golden ticket. Yet this arrangement between Cuban and the Adelson family would mark a unique structure of a majority stakeholder selling such a standing with an NBA team and yet still remaining as the person who holds final say over basketball decision-making — leading plenty of NBA personnel, agents and investment bankers familiar with the space skeptical about the long-term ramifications of Cuban ceding power within the Mavericks.

Stein reported Dumont would hold the family’s foremost role in Dallas’ ownership if the sale does pass through the various committee meetings and voting the NBA will conduct in the coming weeks. But the family has already ventured into professional basketball operations as of this past June, when Adelson’s son, Matan, purchased the Israeli club Hapoel Jerusalem. And Matan has already exhibited an aggressive and expensive approach to improving the club’s position in the Israeli Premier League.

“They’re going to spend money,” said one NBA agent familiar with the Israeli team and league. “They want to topple Maccabi Tel Aviv and Hapoel Tel Aviv, and that takes money.”

“On the player side, we want to provide them with the best conditions possible to strive to be the best on and off of the court,” Matan Adelson told reporters during his introductory news conference in late June. “From the standard of the apartments, team bus and most importantly the facilities that we provide them.”

Much of the country’s business development, its basketball league at large and therefore Hapoel Jerusalem’s progress have been stalled by Israel's ongoing conflict in Gaza. But so far, the agent estimated Hapoel has tripled its previously annual budget for operating the Jerusalem club, which hovered around $3 million in previous seasons. The team pursued pricier imported players this season such as former NBA wings Chris Johnson and Maurice Ndour, who spent the 2016-17 season with the New York Knicks before enjoying a long career overseas. Perhaps Jerusalem will serve as a testing ground for the younger Adelson to one day take the reins from Cuban in Dallas.

But for now, the Mavericks’ $3.5 billion valuation at the Adelsons’ sale price, in a major metropolis like Dallas — compared to the recent $3.5 billion sale price for the smaller-market Milwaukee Bucks and $3 billion for the Charlotte Hornets — has investment bankers considering Cuban’s sale to the Adelsons a relative discount, which would therefore reflect the legitimacy that Cuban will maintain governing partnership of the Mavericks.