Yesterday in New York, the NBA board of governors approved the sale of the Memphis Grizzlies basketball team to a 34-year-old former Apple engineer.
Robert Pera, the CEO of Ubiquiti Networks, won’t officially join that exclusive club of 30 team owners for a few more days.He still has to finalise the transaction with Michael Heisley, the 75-year-old Chicago billionaire who currently owns the Grizzlies, although no hitches are expected.
NBA approval was regarded as the last major hurdle, and the league board of governors’ vote this morning was unanimous.
Associates of Pera, who will become the second owner in the Grizzlies franchise’s history, say he’s not talking publicly until he finishes things with Heisley.
But NBA Commissioner David Stern has already talked up Pera following yesterday’s vote.
“We are delighted that the NBA’s Board of Governors has approved Robert Pera’s purchase of the Grizzlies,” Stern said. “Robert will no doubt bring great energy and passion to the franchise. He has assembled an ownership group with very strong local ties, and we anticipate that their commitment to the Memphis area will greatly benefit both the team and the community.”
Pera has assembled about a dozen co-partners who will own a slice of the Grizzlies with him. Pera will own less than 50 per cent, but he’ll be the controlling owner of the Grizzlies ownership group, which will include Justin Timberlake, AutoZone founder Pitt Hyde, NFL quarterback Peyton Manning, and others including local Memphis businessmen.
Pera is not expected to be a Mark Cuban-type owner of the Grizzlies. So who is he? For starters, he founded a communications technology company, Ubiquiti Networks Inc., and took it public a few years ago.
He’s single, is said to live modestly despite being a multimillionaire and splits his time between Asia and Silicon Valley, where Ubiquiti is headquartered.
According to one analyst, he’s the kind of CEO who’s more into products and innovation than operations and finance.
He loves basketball. He plays pickup games regularly and is reportedly a walking encyclopedia of NBA stats.
Based on the terms he’s agreeing to for the Grizzlies, he’s not buying the team to make money. He’s agreed to keep the team in Memphis, where its home arena is FedExForum, for 15 more years or pay a huge fee if he moves it early. He’s also giving the local owner partners first right to buy the team if Pera wants to sell it – and for them to have the right to buy it at the price Pera paid.