Owner Profiles: Southwest Division
With the lockout in full effect, we here at HOOPSWORLD continue our look at what comprises the “Owners” with a look at the men behind the teams of the Southwest Division. Who are the owners, where did they come from, and what have they done?
While the NBA will debate the validity of these numbers, we will use the 2010 Forbes Magazine NBA valuations as a means of comparing the teams to each other. Forbes doesn’t claim these are 100% accurate – they are estimates – and they may not match an actual bottom line figure, but in the absence of having actual figures Forbes’ numbers are a starting point. Plus, the relative difference in the numbers between teams is still likely accurate.
Dallas Mavericks – Mark Cuban
Ownership Group: H. Ross Perot retained a 5% stake in the franchise when Cuban bought the majority in 2000.
Purchase Price (year): $280 million (2000)
2010 Forbes Valuation: $438 million
2010 Forbes Revenue: $146 million
Education: Bachelor’s Degree, Indiana University
Other Business Interests: Cuban’s sold MicroSolutions to CompuServe for $6 million in 1990. He later teamed with Todd Wagner to start what eventually became Broadcast.com, which was acquired by Yahoo! for $5.9 billion in stock in 1999. Forbes lists his net worth at $2.5 billion. In addition to the Mavericks, Cuban also owns 2929 Entertainment with Wagner. He is also a co-founder of HDNet and is involved heavily in various tech companies. Cuban has long been linked to the possibility of also purchasing a major league baseball team, most recently the L.A. Dodgers.
Notable Team Achievements: The Mavericks have been to the NBA Playoffs for 11 consecutive seasons, capping that off with a NBA title in June. They also reached the NBA Finals in 2006 and the Western Conference Finals in 2003. Before Cuban bought the team the Mavericks had reached the playoffs just six times.
Ownership Philosophy: Cuban is not afraid of spending money in an effort to build a winner. When he first bought the team he believed in throwing money at the team and making trades in order to amass as much talent as possible. Over time he learned chemistry played a bigger part and while he still isn’t afraid to spend money to retain or acquire players, Cuban has learned some restraint when it comes to personnel changes. That restraint and keeping the Mavericks together, making only necessary (injury-related) changes, directly led to their 2011 title.
Houston Rockets – Leslie Alexander
Ownership Group: None
Purchase Price (year): $85 million (1993)
2010 Forbes Valuation: $443 million
2010 Forbes Revenue: $153 million
Education: Bachelor’s, New York University; J.D., Thomas Jefferson School of Law
Other Business Interests: After working on Wall Street, Alexander started his own trading company – The Alexander Group – in 1980. Alexander also owns a stake in student loan company First Marblehead, owns a vineyard in New York where Leslie Wines are produced, and owned the WNBA’s Houston Comets before selling them in 2006. Forbes places his net worth just north of $1 billion.
Notable Team Achievements: The Rockets won back-to-back NBA titles in 1994 and 1995 around the talents of center Hakeem Olajuwon. They have reached the playoffs nine times in 16 seasons since, reaching the Western Conference Finals in 1997.
Ownership Philosophy: Alexander stays in the background, trusting smart basketball people – like Daryl Morey – to run his teams. He isn’t afraid to spend money on stars, but generally prefers to stay out of the luxury tax. Forbes named him the NBA’s best owner in 2008.
Memphis Grizzlies – Michael Heisley
Ownership Group: None.
Purchase Price (year): $160 million (2000)
2010 Forbes Valuation: $266 million
2010 Forbes Revenue: $92 million
Education: Bachelor’s, Georgetown University
Other Business Interests: Heisley is the CEO of The Heico Companies, LLC, a holding company comprised of over 30 other companies primarily in steel, construction, and aviation equipment. The company was begun with the acquisition of Conco in 1979 and added to their portfolio over the years by buying distressed assets. To that end, Heisley also founded Stony Lane Partners, an investment firm specializing in finding new acquisitions. Forbes lists his net worth at $1.6 billion.
Notable Team Achievements: The Grizzlies are coming off their most successful season in their history, advancing to the second round of the playoffs for the first time. They also reached the playoffs from 2004-06, but failed to win a game each time.
Ownership Philosophy: Heisley is very much involved in all aspects of the Grizzlies, including free agent signings and trades. Up until recently he has seemed reluctant to put money into players and almost sold the team to a group led by Brian Davis and Christian Laettner in 2006, but in the past year has changed his tune a little bit with large contract extensions for Mike Conley, Rudy Gay, and Zach Randolph.
New Orleans Hornets – Jac Sperling, Governor (NBA)
Ownership Group: The franchise was bought by the NBA from George Shinn last year after a failed sale. They appointed Sperling as the leader of the team and have allowed him and Hugh Weber to run the team autonomously. The theory is that after the new CBA is signed the league will push to sell to a new investor.
Purchase Price (year): $315 million (2010)
2010 Forbes Valuation: $280 million
2010 Forbes Revenue: $100 million
Education: Bachelor’s, J.D., University of Virginia
Other Business Interests: Sperling began as a sports attorney and has worked in various capacities, but recently was a vice-president for the NHL’s Minnesota Wild. He started Grit Rock Ventures, LLC in 2004, an investment firm with interests in sports, media, and entertainment. In 2004 Grit Rock bought an 80% stake in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and started the Pro Rodeo Tour. In 2007 AEG bought a stake in the venture.
Notable Team Achievements: The Hornets finished 10 games over .500 and lost in the first round of the 2010 NBA Playoffs.
Ownership Philosophy: Sperling has been charged with keeping the Hornets and New Orleans happy together. To that end he spearheaded a marketing campaign to sell enough tickets this past year to block an escape clause that would have allowed the Hornets to move with no repercussions. The Hornets are supposed to be allowed to spend within reason – the NBA has given them a competitive budget – and raise the value of the franchise in anticipation of a sale.
San Antonio Spurs – Peter Holt
Ownership Group: Holt purchased the team with a group of 22 other investors.
Purchase Price (year): $75 million (1993)
2010 Forbes Valuation: $404 million
2010 Forbes Revenue: $135 million
Education: No college
Other Business Interests: After two years in the Army Holt worked for an investment bank. He then joined his father at Holt Companies and as president and CEO made Holt Caterpillar the largest Caterpillar dealership in the U.S. In 1987 they purchased Holt Machinery, originally started by his great-grandfather in 1933. He is the chairman and CEO of Spurs Sports & Entertainment, which owns the Spurs, the WNBA’s San Antonio Silver Stars, the AHL’s San Antonio Rampage, and the D-League’s Austin Toros.
Notable Team Achievements: Since the purchase of the team in 1993 the Spurs have missed the NBA Playoffs just once (in 1997, when they netted Tim Duncan in the lottery). They have won four NBA championships and reached the Western Conference Finals two other seasons. Duncan and David Robinson, cornerstones of the 1999 and 2003 titles, are widely regarded as two of the best big men to ever play the game.
Ownership Philosophy: Holt believes in fostering a community atmosphere, both as a fan experience and in the workplace. Over the years he has built a team that contends almost every season without resorting to overspending; in fact, 2010 is the only season the Spurs have ever paid the luxury tax. Holt stays out of the public eye for the most part, trusting general manager R.C. Buford and head coach Gregg Popovich to make the necessary basketball decisions.