Houston billionaire Tillman Fertitta has reached an agreement to purchase the Houston Rockets from Leslie Alexander.
The $2.2 billion sale price to break the NBA record sale of $2 billion from when the Clippers were sold to Steve Ballmer, according to the person familiar with the terms of the deal.
"I am truly honored to have been chosen as the next owner of the Houston Rockets," Fertitta said in a statement. "This is a life-long dream come true.In addition to being a restauranteur, casino owner and reality show star, Fertitta is also the chairman of the University of Houston Board of Regents. He's been heavily involved in supporting Cougar athletics, including donating $20 million to renovate (and rename) UH's basketball arena.
UH president Renu Khator, who has worked with Fertitta on many projects, said he brings the right vision to the Rockets.
"Tilman is one of the finest and smartest CEOs that I know," she said. "He has been a perfect chair for us and brought so much energy and so much hope here.
"He looks at issues from 50,000 feet and can ask questions that go 10,000 feet. I have watched him, and we think here at the University of Houston that we have been very blessed with his leadership. I think he's going to bring the same energy, enthusiasm and smartness to anything he touches, including the Rockets."Fertitta's support of the UH athletics program bodes well for his ownership of the Rockets: he values competitive sports programs and is willing to put his money behind them. However, a downside (at least for UH fans) to Fertitta's ownership of the Rockets is that that team, rather than Cougar sports, is likely to be his focus moving forward.
The Houston Press's Jeff Balke is supportive of Fertitta, arguing that "he checks off all those boxes" that Rockets fans would want in an owner, and likens Fertitta to another successful NBA owner in the state:
Perhaps the closest example of what type of owner he could be resides a couple of hundred miles to the north in Mark Cuban. Both are entrepreneurs. Both are fans. Both are outspoken and somewhat controversial. Both have reality TV shows. Cuban may rub the NBA and fans of other teams the wrong way, but as an owner, he has been great for the Dallas Mavericks.The Chronicle's Brian T. Smith thinks Fertitta's ownership "looks perfect on paper" but offers some words of caution:
Now, Fertitta will have to prove himself to Houston.
He's been handed the best backcourt in the NBA and has one of the sharpest GMs in the league. He'll cut the check for Coach of the Year Mike D'Antoni, who got 55 regular-season wins out of a supposed No. 8 seed.
This should be hard to screw up -- but the insanely wealthy do it all the time.
What happens if the 2017-18 Rockets fall short, the team's coach isn't getting enough out of his stars, or the new owner wants to start pushing all the big buttons himself?Time will tell, I guess. But Fertitta's ownership of the Rockets makes sense for a lot of reasons.
The Chronicle outlines the steps required to be taken before Fertitta officially assumes control of the franchise and asks some related questions, including what this might mean as far as a future National Hockey League team for Houston. Kuff shares his thoughts as well.