The Houston Rockets were sold today by the former team owner Leslie Alexander to Tilman Fertitta for a record-breaking $2.2 billion.
Below we examined some of the most noteworthy ownership changes in the league’s history.
Other notable transactions include the New York Knicks, a team that was sold for $1.1 billion in 1994. However, this deal included the Rangers (NHL) as well as the MSG Network. Forbes estimated the price tag for the team to be around $300 million, but no exact figure was found.
Similarly, the Washington Wizards sold for a total of $550 million in 2010. But this also included the Verizon Center. Ted Leonsis, who then took over control, already had 44 percent ownership stakes in the team so it’s a very tough estimate.
Note: All of the inflation estimates were made using the US Inflation Calculator. They are not meant as an exact figure. We used this article from Hardwood Paroxysm as a reference for some of the ownership figures.
Los Angeles Lakers (1979) — $20 Million
Sale with Inflation Adjustment — $67.43 million
Forbes Estimated Value — $3 billion
In a tribute to Jerry Buss when he passed away in 2013, a writer summarized some details of the deal (via Hollywood Reporter):
“Buss acquired the Lakers from Jack Kent Cooke in 1979 in a complicated $67 million deal involving cash and land swaps that valued the team at $16 million … Including the sale of the Forum in nearby Inglewood, pro hockey’s Los Angeles Kings and other assets, it was the biggest deal in sports history at the time.”
While the ownership was not just to acquire the Lakers, it set a precedent for the price tag of a marquee sports franchise.
Utah Jazz (1986) — $24 Million
Sale with Inflation Adjustment — $53.6 million
Forbes Estimated Value — $910 million
This is tough to understand as Larry H. Miller purchased half the team in 1985 for $9.5 million then the remaining 50 percent the following year for $17.3 million. John Stockton and Karl Malone were both about to add significant value to the team and they won the division shortly after in 1989.
Portland Trail Blazers (1988) — $70 Million
Sale with Inflation Adjustment — $144 million
Forbes Estimated Value — $1.05 billion
Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen (who warned Steve Ballmer about coaches as executives) paid significantly more than other ownership groups had paid for NBA franchises. Three years prior, Jerry Reinsdorf purchased the Bulls for $16 million.
Orlando Magic (1991) — $85 Million
Sale with Inflation Adjustment — $152 million
Forbes Estimated Value — $920 million
Richard DeVos purchased the Magic, who were an expansion team founded in 1989, for a record-setting price (via Forbes):
“Real estate investor William DuPont owned the team for only two years before flipping it to DeVos in 1991 for $85 million. DeVos gave his new fans almost immediate gratification as the Magic reached the finals in 1995 with a young Shaquille O’Neal.”
If the last name looks familiar, it’s because he is the co-founder of Amway and his daughter-in-law is United States Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.
Minnesota Timberwolves (1994) — $89 Million
Sale with Inflation Adjustment — $147 million
Forbes Estimated Value — $770 million
Many may not remember but the Timberwolves nearly moved to New Orleans before their sale in 1994 (via Los Angeles Times):
“Ratner and Wolfenson said they had been willing to take $88 million from buyers wanting to keep the team in Minneapolis, but none came forward.”
Glen Taylor, who still owns the team, eventually helped keep the team in Minnesota after the relocation offer was rejected by the league.
Dallas Mavericks (2000) — $285 Million
Sale with Inflation Adjustment — $405 million
Forbes Estimated Value — $1.45 Billion
In a profile on Mark Cuban, we learned some thought the record-breaking price he paid for the team in Dallas was ridiculous (via Grantland):
“There was a parade for Cuban’s Mavericks in the summer of 2011, after they shocked the basketball world by upsetting the Miami Heat in the Finals. That celebration took place just over 11 years after he bought the franchise for $285 million. Some believed Cuban had foolishly overpaid for one of the laughingstock franchises in pro sports.”
Years later, he has proven himself as one of the more successful owners in professional sports.
Boston Celtics (2002) — $360 Million
Sale With Inflation Adjustment — $489 million
Forbes Estimated Value — $2.2 billion
While the deal may have been unexpected, it proved to be immediately fruitful (via Washington Post):
“The Celtics franchise passed into the hands of a group of longtime fans who pledged to bring a championship back to the city. The agreement to buy the team for a league-record $360 million was announced on Sept. 27, and the NBA approved the deal late Monday.”
Boston won another league championship in 2008 and their new star power can help bring more banners moving forward as well.
Phoenix Suns (2004) — $401 Million
Sale With Inflation Adjustment — $519 million
Forbes Estimated Value — $1.1 billion
Robert G. Sarver paid a record price for the NBA team at the time, though he received a bit more (via BizJournals.com):
“Included in the price tag are the Suns’ majority holdings in the Phoenix Mercury WNBA team and the Arizona Rattlers Arena Football League team, and the management agreement for America West Arena.”
While neither of these teams may be worth a significant amount, it’s still worth mentioning it was part of the transaction.
Golden State Warriors (2010) — $450 Million
Sale With Inflation Adjustment — $505 million
Forbes Estimated Value — $2.6 billion
The return on investment for owner Joe Lacob has been fantastic when you look at what the team was worth less than one decade ago (via CNBC.com):
“The Warriors franchise, which was bought by Chris Cohan in 1995 for $119 million, was valued at $315 million by Forbes in December of last year, but the Warriors’ location in the Bay area undoubtedly added more interest and thus a higher price.”
Golden State may be worth significantly more than the estimate from Forbes as they are moving into a new arena and have played historically well in recent years.
Sacramento Kings (2012) — $534 Million
Sale With Inflation Adjustment — $569 million
Forbes Estimated Value — $1.07 billion
One reason that Vivek Ranadive paid so much for this team was to keep them in Sacramento (via NBA.com):
“Ranadive agreed to a valuation that was $10 million higher than the initial valuation of the Kings by Seattle hedge fund manager Chris Hansen, who reached a deal with the Maloofs in January for 65 percent of the team on a valuation of $525 million. But Hansen’s request to move the Kings to Seattle was rejected by the NBA’s Board of Governors.”
If he did not pay such a large price, the Kings may have moved to Seattle.
Milwaukee Bucks (2014) — $550 Million
Sale With Inflation Adjustment — $568 million
Forbes Estimated Value — $785 million
Here is what former U.S. Senator Herb Kohl (who was a longtime owner of the team) said about the sale (via New York Times):
“I wasn’t going to live forever. I’ve approached the time in my life where I have to look at how we approach the idea of succession.”
Cuban, the aforementioned owner of the Mavericks, said the exchange was a bargain. He proved to be correct considering what Steve Ballmer paid to own the Clippers.
Los Angeles Clippers (2014) — $2 Billion
Sale With Inflation Adjustment — $2.07 billion
Forbes Estimated Value — $2.0 billion
Tom Ziller helped conceptualize how massive this price was for Los Angeles owner Steve Ballmer (via SB Nation):
“The recent sale of the Milwaukee Bucks broke the record for the highest team purchase price at $550 million. The reported Clippers sale price is $1.45 billion more than that, or 3.6 times as high. As recently as 2010, a team (the Charlotte Bobcats) was sold for only $240 million. That’s never happening again. (For what it’s worth, Sterling paid $12.5 million for the San Diego Clippers in 1981.)”
As the value of teams increased, however, it may prove that Ballmer paid a fair price for the Clippers.
Houston Rockets (2017) — $2.2 Billion
The Rockets were sold to Leslie Alexander for $85 million in 1993. Adjusting for inflation, this calculates to $1.43 billion. Forbes estimated earlier this year that the team was worth $1.65 billion.
As such, it’s worth congratulating Alexander on an impressive sale in improving the valuation for the Rockets. However, as we can see when looking at other historic NBA sales, the return on investment nearly always proves to be worth it.
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