By The Associated Press
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Memphis Grizzlies have changed owners officially, and the new bosses want to make clear their commitment to staying in Tennessee very clear.
“The Grizzlies are here to stay in Memphis,” new Grizzlies chairman Robert J. Pera said.
The Grizzlies announced Wednesday that the reported $377 million sale by Michael Heisley had been finalized to a group led by Pera, a former Apple engineer who founded the communications technology company Ubiquiti Networks. The group includes local businessmen, entertainer Justin Timberlake, Memphis native and former NBA player Penny Hardaway, a former U.S. congressman and Ashley Manning, wife of four-time NFL MVP Peyton Manning.
The Grizzlies open the season Wednesday night at the Los Angeles Clippers, and the new owners will hold a news conference Monday morning before the home opener that night against Utah. Pera said in a statement the group is “thrilled” to take ownership of the Grizzlies.
“We see enormous potential and understand the role the Grizzlies play in bringing Memphians together,” Pera said in a statement. “We are committed to building a winning team with a best-in-class organizational culture, finding new and creative ways to engage with our fans, and making a positive and meaningful difference in the community.”
Pera already had agreed to three provisions to ensure the Grizzlies will be sticking around Memphis for another 15 years. Those include a $100 million penalty if the Grizzlies are moved, the right of first refusal for local owners to match any offer for Pera to sell the team and the right of local owners to buy the team from Pera at the current price should he want to move the franchise.
Heisley had owned the Grizzlies for 11 years and relocated the franchise from Vancouver to Memphis. He said in a statement that owning the Grizzlies was one of the most rewarding business ventures of his career.
“I am confident that the franchise will continue its development toward being a perennial championship contender and an important member of the Memphis community,” Heisley said. “I am particularly gratified that we have put together a team which is poised to continue its improvement. In Robert, we have a new owner who has expressed a total commitment to build on our success in Memphis.”