OCTOBER 6: NBA owners have approved the sale of the Rockets to Fertitta, Mark Berman of Fox 26 tweets. The Houston billionaire was approved 30-0.
SEPTEMBER 5, 9:13am: The Rockets have issued a press release confirming that a “definitive agreement has been signed” for the purchase of the franchise by Fertitta. The deal will require the approval of the NBA’s Board of Governors. According to the Rockets, Fertitta has “no other partners in connection with the transaction.”
8:37am: The sale price for the Rockets will be $2.2 billion, per Scott Soshnick of Bloomberg (Twitter link).
8:34am: Houston billionaire Tilman Fertitta has reached an agreement to buy the Rockets from current team owner Leslie Alexander, sources tell Mark Berman of FOX 26 Houston. According to Berman, the franchise could announce the deal as soon as today.
Rockets CEO Tad Brown announced back in mid-July that Alexander was putting the club up for sale, and we heard just a couple days later that that Fertitta, a Texas native who founded Landry’s restaurants and owns multiple hotels and casinos, was interested in making a bid for the franchise.
“[I] just hope it doesn’t go for crazy numbers,” Fertitta said at the time. “I’ve never really wanted to own a professional team outside of Houston. Houston is my hometown and the place I would prefer to own a professional team.”
Despite Fertitta’s hope that the Rockets wouldn’t sell for “crazy numbers,” it appears he was willing to make a substantial offer to finalize the deal. Confirming that an agreement is in place, Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle reports (via Twitter) that the sale is expected to break the NBA record $2 billion price tag on Steve Ballmer‘s purchase of the Clippers.
Even back in February, before the Rockets won a playoff series, traded for Chris Paul, and extended James Harden, Forbes placed a $1.65 billion valuation on the franchise, and Forbes’ estimates for professional sports teams are often low. Berman notes that Forbes has estimated Fertitta’s net worth to be $3.1 billion.
For Fertitta, while this will be his first time as a controlling owner, it won’t be his first foray into sports franchise ownership. He has previously been a limited partner with the Rockets and the NFL’s Houston Texans.
Although Berman’s report suggests that Fertitta is poised to become the controlling owner of the Rockets, it’s not clear whether he’ll be joined by a series of minority investors or if any big names will be part of his group. Since that July announcement that the Rockets were up for sale, multiple former players – including Hakeem Olajuwon, Dikembe Mutombo, and Elvin Hayes – have expressed interest in becoming part of an ownership group. Pop star Beyoncé also reportedly had interest in becoming a minority stakeholder in the franchise.
Alexander bought the Rockets for $85MM back in 1993, and has overseen the team since then, including during its two championship seasons in the mid-1990s.