Memphis Grizzlies: Is Michael Heisley About to Sell the Team?

Tom FirmeAnalyst IIMarch 21, 2012

CHICAGO - JANUARY 13:  Team owner Michael Heisley (C) of the memphis Grizzlies sits courtside during the Grizzlies game against the Chicago Bulls January 13, 2007 at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Memphis Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley has been attentive to his franchise, but one can't deny that he is trying to make money with the up-and-coming team. Heisley moved to Grizzlies from Vancouver to Memphis in 2001 after promising not to move them when he bought the team. He allows some moves, but doesn't spend a ton of money.

Now, the billionaire owner might be on the move after owning the team for 12 years. According to Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, Heisley is negotiating a sale with Oracle CEO Larry Ellison and may have a handshake agreement for a sale.

Ellison has made it known that he wants to buy an NBA team. He previously bid for the Golden State Warriors and New Orleans Hornets.

Heisley dismissed talk of a possible sale of the Grizzlies. He told The Commercial Appeal:

It's in the initial stages. We've handled this just like we've handled several other dozen requests. My situation in Memphis has not changed a lick. My preference will always be for somebody in Memphis to buy the team. There's not any interest in Memphis. But we've always made it known that if somebody wants to buy the team, we'll listen. If they're real buyers we'll probably be sellers. So far there hasn't been anyone willing to buy the team under my terms and for my price.

Heisley hasn't been unenthusiastic about his ownership of the Grizzlies, but he has left open the possibility for a sale. The above quote from Heisley, who resides in Chicago, reiterates a line of his from an interview with The Commercial Appeal in December about his preference for a local owner.

He showed a desire to lessen his investment in the Grizzlies in February when he sought to form an advisory board for the team.

Heisley isn't known to spend big on the Grizzlies. He's best known for his riff after trading Pau Gasol to the Lakers, when he said, "What do you want me to spend? $100 million?"

Granted, Heisley has given big contracts in the last two years to Rudy Gay, Mike Conley, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. However, Heisley ensured that Chris Wallace maneuvered to have the Grizzlies avoid the luxury tax threshold this year.

Heisley could have bigger things on his mind than the Grizzlies. He's a finalist in the bidding to own the Los Angeles Dodgers. Also, Heisley, who rarely attends Grizzlies games, surely has big plans for Heico, his holding company for transforming bankrupt and underperforming firms.

The aforementioned CSN Bay Area report noted that Ellison is thought to have hopes of moving a team to San Jose if he manages to buy one. The snag if he tried with the Grizzlies would come with the fact that the Grizzlies have a lease on FedEx Forum through 2021, although it could be terminated in 2017 if attendance goals aren't met.

If the negotiations are only in the early stages, as Heisley said, then much could change in the coming months regarding the possibility of Ellison buying the team. Heisley could drop the idea if he fails to win the Dodgers bid. Also, Grizzlies could persuade Heisley with a deep playoff run.

Since the mind of a businessman is difficult to read, Grizzlies fans can only wait and wonder.