So yesterday afternoon while perusing the internet, I see a story that the Memphis Grizzlies have been sold. It was not totally unexpected but still a little shocking to see. I have never heard of Robert Pera. I have never heard of his company, Ubiquiti. I have no knowledge of his dealings or his way of doing business. The initial reports came back that he is 34 years old and a technology “magnate”, whatever that is, who lives in Northern California and Taiwan. So after a day of reading media and listening to Memphis sports talk radio on the internet, I have some thoughts on the matter at hand. There are still more questions than answers as Pera seems to be quite the mysterious figure, but heeeerrre we go…
My first thoughts when hearing that Pera was 34 years old was that he could be the second coming of Mark Cuban. Although Cuban was almost a decade older when he bought the Mavericks and had just got a cash infusion of $5.9 billion from Yahoo from selling his company, the thought of having a young energetic owner intrigues me. Could Pera could be just what Memphis needs in an owner? Will he be someone who will spend money wildly to bring in talent? Will he be someone who will be visible to the media? Will he be a “character” with colorful language and snippets a la Jery Jones? Will he somehow find a way to attend games in Memphis? We don’t know the answers to these questions. The only person who can answer these questions right now is Robert Pera and the only thing I have seen from him is a statement saying he’s happy to be the new owner. Financially, he doesn’t appear to be as well off as Cuban was when he bought the Mavericks. Cuban had just received $5.9 billion in Yahoo stock after selling his company Broadcast.com. He’s younger than Cuban so in some ways you almost want to see another 5 years or so of seasoning and financial stability.
After doing research on the internet and doing Google searches for “Robert Pera” and “Ubiquiti”, you see that there is a lot written about his finances and the state of the company. This obviously brings back images of Brian Davis and Christian Laettner attempting to purchase the Grizzlies a few years ago. Laettner and Davis were relying on real estate investments, future real estate investments and other venture to get enough collateral to finance the purchase for the Grizz. Obviously betting on real estate values increasing was not a smart bet. In the case of Robert Pera, I say he is a little more financially stable than the Davis and Laettner group but there is a big unknown. Is Pera purchasing this team by himself? Is there a group? Is he selling stock to finance the purchase? Is he making a onetime payment or financing the team over a period of years? Late last year when Pera’s company went public, he was worth close to $2 billion on paper. I’ve seen as high as $2.1 billion and as low as $1.6 billion. There have been some recent scandals with his company and his company’s value has dropped tremendously, less than a year after the IPO and his net worth is now estimated to be anywhere from $600 million to a little under $1 billion. What’s the true value? Who knows? What I do know is that the NBA has to approve this sale and they will go through his financers with a fine tooth comb, much more than I ever could. So if the NBA approves the sale, I will assume his finances are just fine.
In summary, my take on Pera is a big fat “I don’t know”. I truthfully and honestly do not know what to think. For now, I will keep an optimistic point of view, I will hope that the sale goes through and I will hope that Pera is a great owner while still cheering on my hometown Grizzlies.
He Gave Us Something To Talk About….
Finally, I want to thank and in some ways congratulate Michael Heisley. Heisley had no ties to Memphis when he decided to relocate the team to Memphis from Vancouver. He had no obligation to do that. Sure there were bad times but there were also good times. I think Heisley has brought the Memphis community together by bringing the Grzzlies to town. The new car smell wore off and then he brought in Jerry West. The playoff runs of the mid-2000’s were thrilling while frustrating at the same time but it brought people together. The rebuilding may have been even more frustrating but it had people talking. The playoff run from the 2010-2011 season was nothing short of a miracle. Many people forget that this year’s team actually had the highest winning percentage in franchise history despite losing to the Clippers in the first round. The team has made the playoffs 5 years out of the 11 years that the team has been in the Mid-South. Heisley was an excellent corporate citizen in the Memphis community through his many financial contributions and endeavors such as the Grizzlies House and now the Grizzlies Charter School . I wish him nothing but the best of health and luck in the future. I didn’t always agree with his methods, but he maintained his method to his own madness. Many complained about Heisley and few praised him but I’ll tell you what, Bonnie Raitt would be proud, because he gave us something to talk about.