Oracle CEO and billionaire Larry Ellison has been getting some sun down in Indian Wells, where one of his sports properties, the BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament, has been going on for the last two weeks. That hasn’t stopped him from accelerating his quest for an NBA franchise. The basketball fan almost bought the New Orleans Hornets with the possible intent to move the franchise to San Jose. After those overtures were denied by the league, he’s back to buy another Southern team, the Memphis Grizzlies. CSN Bay Area’s Matt Steinmetz reports that Ellison has a “handshake agreement” with current Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley to acquire the franchise.
The Grizzlies are locked into a lease at FedEx Forum through at least 2017, so there’s no chance of Ellison being able to relocate the franchise immediately (if he wanted to). The Merc notes that Heisley’s asking price is $350 million, a $40+ million premium over the franchise’s most recent Forbes valuation. That figure is also in line with the amount the NBA is looking to get for the Hornets, who are expected to be sold to a consortium headed by LA businessman Raj Bhathal sometime in the next few weeks.
Both Heisley and Ellison were expected to be bidders on the Dodgers. Only Heisley submitted a bid. Frequently criticized for being cheap in his tenure as Grizzlies owner, Heisley managed to end up on the short list of Dodger bidders, making it past the first two rounds after he teamed up with Tony Ressler.
The $350 million sales price appears to be the key for Ellison, as he bid lower than Joe Lacob and Peter Guber when the Warriors were put up for sale. That’s the same amount he bid on the Hornets in late 2010. Still, the franchise is in Memphis and is not going to move for a while if at all. With his interest tied up in the ongoing America’s Cup defense and running a NASDAQ-100/S&P 500 company, you have to wonder if Ellison would end up being something of an absentee owner. An hour jet ride to Palm Desert once a year is a lot more manageable than frequent four-hour trips to Memphis. Despite that “hardship” it’s clear that Ellison wants in on owning an NBA franchise, which is more than I can say for his supposed interest in baseball.