News from around the sports industry: NBA teams for sale

The following story ran in today’s New York Post:

NBA’s $450M score: Pistons go to Ilitch

By Josh Kosman

Mike Ilitch, owner of the Detroit Tigers and Red Wings, is the last remaining bidder for the NBA’s Detroit Pistons — and has emerged as the likely buyer of the storied 53-year-old franchise, The Post has learned.

The billionaire, who earned his fortune through the family-owned Little Caesars Pizza chain, is expected to seal the deal with a bid of more than $450 million, according to one source.

However, a second person familiar with the deal claimed the final price will be less than that, once last-minute negotiations are completed.

While the Pistons seem to have a savior, the same cannot be said of the league.

Last week NBA Commissioner David Stern floated the possibility that some teams may be folded to reduce player costs by as much as $800 million — ahead of talks for a new labor deal at season’s end.

In the past year, as many as nine teams — or about 30 percent of the league — have been put on the block.

And several of the teams have seen a less-than-rabid response from bidders. In fact, four other teams may not find buyers, sources said.

For example, there is limited interest in the Milwaukee Bucks, which two sources said could be had for the right price.

Owner Sen. Herb Kohl, through a spokesman, said the team is not for sale.

The Atlanta Hawks have been seeking a buyer for months, but with a $20 million operating loss before debt payments, that franchise is having difficulty attracting suitors.

It’s a similar story for the Memphis Grizzlies. Meanwhile, the New Orleans Hornets are still primarily in talks to sell the team with minority owner Gary Chouest.

“I have never seen so many teams for sale at one time,” the second source said.

The NBA’s problem is not hard to figure out: during the recession owners have seen their fortunes fall and, therefore, do not have the money to bankroll their smaller market and often money-losing teams.

Ultimately, one sports consultant said, he believes people will have to pay more to watch sports on television.

New Orleans declined comment. Detroit, Milwaukee, and Memphis spokespeople did not return calls.

The Atlanta Hawks and Ilitch could not be reached.

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