As of this Thursday, a pair of Grizzlies minority owners will have the opportunity to make a play for majority ownership of the franchise, as Brian Windhorst and Zach Lowe detail in an ESPN.com report.
The unusual ownership situation in Memphis, which we outlined last month, allows Steve Kaplan and/or Daniel Straus, who each own about 14% of the Grizzlies, to make an offer to majority owner Robert Pera, who owns approximately 25-26% of the franchise.
If either Kaplan or Straus makes an offer during a 60-day window, which opens on Thursday, Pera would then have a 60-day window of his own to decide whether to buy Kaplan’s or Straus’ shares at their valuation, or whether to sell his own shares to them at that price.
Kaplan and Straus are under no obligation to initiate the process, but there’s a belief that one or both of them will do so, sources tell Windhorst and Lowe. Still, it’s possible that the process could take months to play out, with Straus and Kaplan standing by and watching to see what the other will do. If neither minority shareholder places a formal bid at this time, they’ll have another chance to do so in 2020.
It will be interesting to see whether either minority stakeholder moves forward with an attempt to supplant Pera as the Grizzlies’ controlling owner. The amount of a potential bid from Straus or Kaplan would be equally fascinating — Forbes’ franchise valuations earlier this year pegged the Grizzlies’ worth at $790MM, but those estimates are typically conservative. For comparison’s sake, Forbes’s valuation for the Rockets was $1.65 billion, and Tilman Fertitta bought the club several months later for $2.2 billion. The current Grizzlies’ ownership group bought the team for about $350MM in 2012.
Of the Grizzlies’ top two minority shareholders, Kaplan appears to be the more likely of the two to make a move, though that’s just my speculation. He has made an effort in the past to gain a more significant stake in an NBA team, but attempts involving the Hawks and Timberwolves didn’t pan out. Kaplan currently has a controlling interest in Swansea City, a Premier League soccer team in Wales.
While the Grizzlies’ ownership situation is somewhat uncertain going forward, the team is off to a great start on the court. Memphis is 3-0 so far, with victories over the Warriors and Rockets.