By Teressa M. Walker/The Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — NFL quarterback Peyton Manning and his wife, Ashley, and former NBA player Penny Hardaway have agreed to join the group of minority owners for the Memphis Grizzlies, said a person familiar with the deal.
The Mannings and Hardaway join a minority group that includes singer and actor Justin Timberlake and a couple Memphis businessmen, the person told The Associated Press Thursday on condition of anonymity because prospective buyer Robert J. Pera’s purchase of the Grizzlies is pending approval by the NBA.
The addition of Manning and Hardaway first was reported by The Chris Vernon Show on WMFS-FM on Thursday.
Pera, owner of a California tech company, agreed to buy the Grizzlies from Michael Heisley in June for $350 million. The NBA is expected to approve the sale this month.
Since agreeing to buy the Grizzlies, Pera has been busy lining up his own group of minority owners including AutoZone founder J.R. “Pit” Hyde and businessman Staley Cates who were minority owners with Heisley. Pera also has worked to add plenty of local star power to the group as well.
Timberlake was born in Memphis. Hardaway is a Memphis native who played collegiately at then-Memphis State. Ashley Manning once lived in Memphis and married Peyton there on St. Patrick’s Day in 2001. Peyton Manning played at the University of Tennessee across the state in Knoxville.
Having even a tiny piece of a pro sports team in another league will not be a conflict for Manning with the NFL, according to league spokesman Greg Aiello.
A spokesman with Manning’s current team, the Denver Broncos, had no comment Thursday. Manning had his weekly availability with reporters Wednesday.
Grizzlies guard Mike Conley said Tuesday that the ownership change will not affect the players themselves or change what they have to do on the court. But they all have heard about Pera, a former Apple engineer who left in 2005 to start Ubiquiti Networks, a communications technology company that makes WiFi networking equipment.
“We’ve heard a lot of good things about him, and his intentions are all good,” Conley said. “I know the city of Memphis should be excited. As a team, we are excited. It’s going to be a different expectation for us, and we’re just looking forward to taking it on.”
The Grizzlies open the season Oct. 31 at the Los Angeles Clippers.