Mike Ilitch to Buy Detroit Pistons From Karen Davidson, Report Says
The Ilitch family already owns the Detroit Red Wings and Detroit Tigers and is said to be very interested in building a new downtown arena that would serve as home both to the Red Wings and Pistons. The Ilitch family announced plans to buy the Pistons earlier this summer. Ilitch co-founded the pizza chain Little Caesars Enterprises Inc., with his wife Marian in 1959.
If the deal goes through, it will be only the second time the franchise has been sold. Bill Davidson bought the Pistons for $8 million in 1974 from team founder Fred Zollner, who moved the franchise to Detroit in 1957 from Fort Wayne, Ind., where it was founded. When Bill Davidson passed away in March 2009, his wife, Karen Davidson (pictured right), inherited the team.
In December 2009, Forbes Magazine estimated the value of the team to be $479 million, the NBA's fourth most valuable franchise, behind the Los Angeles Lakers, New York Knicks and Chicago Bulls. One of the reasons the team is worth so much is because it has no debt and a privately-funded arena, the Palace of Auburn Hills. The Palace would be included in the sale, as well as the venue management company that operates two nearby amphitheaters, the DTE Energy Music Theatre and Meadow Brook Music Festival.
The last NBA franchise to change hands was the Golden State Warriors, when Chris Cohan sold to an ownership group including Joe Lacob and Peter Guber for a record $450 million in July. The final price was far above Forbes' $315 million estimated value of the Warriors. That may bode well for Davidson's bottom line, but any potential owner of the Pistons must also take into consideration metro Detroit's depressed economy.
The Pistons' current minority owners, who account for a 24 percent stake, have agreed to sell their shares when Davidson reaches a deal.
Karen Davidson reportedly said that she was confident a deal would be done before the season started, according to mlive.com. "It's progressing very well," she said during a Sept 23 promotional event in Auburn Hills.
The only other major candidate considered to buy the team was Tom Gores, a California private equity billionaire who is a graduate of Michigan State University.
-- FanHouse editor Matt Watson contributed to this report.