Houston Rockets owner Leslie Alexander stuns the NBA

Houston Rockets owner Leslie Alexander. (Photo by Ezra
Shaw/Getty Images)

A WEEK after handing James Harden the richest
contract in NBA history, Houston Rockets owner Leslie
Alexander has made another stunning move.

His team is for sale.

After 24 years in charge — and two championships from the
Hakeem Olajuwon era — the lawyer and businessman is seeking to
cash in on his investment. And if recent history is any guide
it’s sure to be a huge windfall.

Alexander bought the team for $85 million in 1993. Forbes
recently valued the Rockets at $1.65 billion.

But with the popularity of the NBA at unprecedented levels —
and with one of the best players in the league locked up
long-term in one of America’s larger markets — Alexander will
be hoping the price approaches somewhere near the $2 billion
former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer paid for the LA Clippers in

The Houston Chronicle has already reported local billionaire
Tilman Fertitta’s interest in buying the team.

“I definitely have an interest,” said Fertitta, the Landry’s
restaurants founder and CEO and gambling mogul whose net worth
is listed by Forbes at $3.1 billion. “Just hope it doesn’t go
for crazy numbers. I’ve never really wanted to own a
professional team outside of Houston. Houston is my hometown
and the place I would prefer to own a professional team.”

Chronicle columnist Brian T. Smith wrote
the timing of Alexander’s decision “couldn’t be odder” after
the team recently paired Harden with Clippers veteran Chris
Paul and was rumoured to be pursuing Knicks star Carmelo



“Alexander has been a mainstay for two-plus decades in this
city. He collected superstars, pushed for a third ring and
refused to settle for second best. He was a terrific owner,”
Smith wrote.

“Alexander was also a proud, fiery fighter and the two
championship trophies that were so often displayed in his suite
were a reminder of just how much he cared about his basketball

“Which is why the way this all went down — sudden, shocking,
absolutely unexpected — already feels so weird.

“You pair CP3 with Harden and target Melo, then you walk away?
That doesn’t sound like the Alexander we thought we knew — an
owner who was getting closer and closer to his third ring.”

Rockets CEO Tad Brown made the announcement Monday, hours after
Alexander made the decision.

“It’s been my great joy and honour to own the Houston Rockets
for the past 24 years,” Alexander said in a statement. “I’ve
had the incredible opportunity to witness true greatness
through the players and coaches who have won championships for
the city, been named to All-Star and All-NBA teams, enshrined
in the Basketball Hall of Fame, and done so much for our
franchise and our fans.”

Alexander took over as owner on July 30, 1993, and the Rockets
went on to win back-to-back titles in 1994-95.

In 24 seasons under Alexander, the Rockets have won 56.9 per
cent of their games, fifth-highest in the league.

Brown said the 74-year-old Alexander had been approached over
the years by potential buyers, but never considered it until
very recently. “I think it’s been something he’s been thinking
about a little bit,” Brown said.

“It can wear on you after so many decades and he’s tired. There
are passions in his life now that are becoming more and more
clear. His family, certainly, and his philanthropic efforts,
what he’ll be able to do with his additional time and his
resources on a global scale is something that he’s very much
looking forward to.”

Brown will be working with the league office while they look
for a new owner. There is no set timetable for the sale, but
Brown said they want to find the right buyer and won’t rush the

Included in the sale will be Clutch City Sports and
Entertainment, which puts on non-basketball shows and concerts
at the Toyota Center.

“It’s a nice opportunity to have that rolled into one asset,”
Brown said.

NBA: Dante Exum is a man on a mission.

— with AP

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