Sports

Houston Rockets: Gambling and Steak Billionaire Tilman Fertitta Wants to Buy NBA Franchise

Calling all billionaires with a passing interest in basketball and an eye for making even more money in one of the United States’ bigger sports markets: The Houston Rockets are up for sale.

Tad Brown, the Rockets’ CEO, told reporters at a press conference Monday that current owner Leslie Alexander had grown “weary” of the daily pressures of owning an NBA franchise.

Alexander, a former bond trader from New Jersey, has benefited from the $85 million investment he made 24 years ago. The Rockets won two NBA Championships in his first two years as owner, spearheaded by the Hall of Fame talents of Hakeem Olajuwon. In February 2017, Forbes valued the franchise at $1.65 billion, though the New York Times notes that the Los Angeles Clippers went for $2 billion in August 2014, far above Forbes’s valuation of $575 million.

Or, to put it more succinctly. It’s going to take someone very rich indeed to buy a franchise that looks set to contend for several years, even in an increasingly deep Western Conference. If the Rockets weren’t in win-now mode at the end of the 2016-17 season then they have moved into that territory over the summer with a trade for Chris Paul and a record contract for James Harden.

Step forward, Tilman Fertitta? The billionaire, a third cousin of the former UFC owners Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta told the Houston Chronicle on Monday that he would be interested in acquiring his hometown franchise.

"I've known Les [Alexander] since he purchased the team 24 years ago," Fertitta said. "Les has been a great owner for 24 years. He's won the only two major championships in the history of Houston and has kept the team competitive for 24 years. It will be big shoes to follow for whoever buys the team. I definitely have an interest."

Fertitta is CEO and owner of Landry’s Inc, one of the United States’ biggest restaurant corporations. His ownership of Golden Nugget Casinos forced him to sell his shares in the Houston Texans NFL franchise in 2008. Unlike the NFL, the NBA does not prohibit team owners from having financial interests in gambling.

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