By Ben Golliver
Michael Heisley is one major step closer to cashing out.
The NBA announced Thursday that its Board of Governors has officially approved the sale of the Memphis Grizzlies to Robert Pera's investor group.
“We are delighted that the NBA’s Board of Governors has approved Robert Pera’s purchase of the Grizzlies,” said NBA Commissioner David Stern. “Robert will no doubt bring great energy and passion to the franchise. He has assembled an ownership group with very strong local ties, and we anticipate that their commitment to the Memphis area will greatly benefit both the team and the community.”
The Memphis Commercial-Appeal reports that Heisley, who has owned the franchise since 2000, and Pera are expected to close negotiations over the next few days. The franchise's sale price, according to the paper, is $350 million. Heisley's ownership saw the franchise move from Vancouver, B.C. to Memphis in 2001 and the opening of the FedEx Forum in 2004.
Pera, 34, is the founder of Ubiquiti Networks, a Silicon Valley technology company. His group of investors is said to include Justin Timberlake, Peyton Manning, and Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway, among others.
This ownership transfer comes at what is a bit of a golden age for the franchise. The Grizzlies won their first playoff series in 2011, upsetting the San Antonio Spurs, and nearly advanced to the Western Conference semifinals again in 2012, getting eliminated in seven games by the Los Angeles Clippers. The roster, while expensive, is set up to continue on as a reliable winner for the next few years, assuming Pera is willing to cut the checks. The team's core four players -- Rudy Gay, Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph and Mike Conley -- are all under contract until at least 2014-15, although Randolph and Gay hold player options in that year. Back in June, Pera's bid to purchase the team was said to be in jeopardy when Ubiquiti Networks stock tumbled, dropping his net worth considerably.