Californian Larry Ellison, ranked as the third-richest person in the U.S., has inquired about buying the Memphis Grizzlies with apparent hopes of moving the team to San Jose. But team owner Michael Heisley on Saturday downplayed the possibility of a sale — and of a relocation, citing a lease that ties the franchise to Memphis and FedExForum until 2021. “I can’t downplay it enough. If it happens I’ll be surprised,” said Heisley, a Chicago-based billionaire who added that talks had not become serious.
HoopsVibe’s Very Quick Call: Be afraid Memphis.
Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley will say one thing and do the opposite -especially if he can make a profit.
Consider his track record.
Years ago, the Chicago businessman promised to keep the Grizzlies in Vancouver, even singing the Canadian national anthem at the season opener as a show of good faith.
Privately, behind closed doors, Heisley was sabotaging things so he could move the franchise as soon as possible.
He stopped selling season tickets so attendance would fall. He cut ties with the community. He alienated sponsors. And he stopped communicating with fans.
The reason? Heisley could justify the move to Memphis if he could kill the Vancouver market.
At the time, Vancouver was an average NBA market. The Canadian dollar was low; the area’s economy was in recession. On-court, the team was an unmitigated disaster because of GM Stu Jackson. Not surprisingly, the team only drew about 15 thousand fans per game.
Ironically, the situation improved once Heisley left. Today, the Canadian dollar sits at par; Vancouver’s economy is strong because of oil, gas, and an influx of Chinese money. Fans would support a decent product -the city’s NHL team has a string of 380 straight sell-outs.
Heisley was too narrow-minded to see the light, though. He took the tax breaks and ran to small, poor Memphis, where he has lost millions of dollars.
And Heisley will show no loyalty to Memphis if Larry Ellison’s offer is high enough. He won’t care if selling the team to the Oracle CEO results in the Grizzles leaving for San Jose.
Once a jerk, always a jerk. Just ask Vancouver.
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