Houston Rockets owner Leslie Alexander announced in July that he was putting the team up for sale, and a month and a half later, he’s found a buyer. This morning, Tilman Fertitta confirmed that he’d purchased the team, and ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that he did so for $2.2 billion. That’s the most anyone has paid for an NBA franchise, $200 million higher than the $2 billion Steve Ballmer paid for the Clippers.
Fertitta is the third cousin of Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta, the brothers who ran the UFC until they sold it for $4 billion last August. The 60-year-old Galveston native has been a player in Houston’s sports scene for decades, as he tried to buy the Rockets in 1993 (he eventually worked for the team) and was an original investor in the Houston Texans. Fertitta made his money in restaurants, hotels, and casinos. The Rockets acknowledged the “unfortunate” timing of announcing the sale while the city is still dealing with the effects of Hurricane Harvey:
This process started back in July, and it is truly unfortunate that this announcement is occurring amidst the aftermath of one of the biggest tragedies in the history of our great City. “I am truly honored to have been chosen as the next owner of the Houston Rockets. This is a life-long dream come true,” said Fertitta, a native of Galveston and life-long resident of the Houston area. “Leslie Alexander has been one of the best owners in all of sports, and I thank him immensely for this opportunity. He has the heart of a champion. Lastly, out of respect for the NBA’s approval process, I can say no more other than I am overwhelmed with emotion to have this opportunity in my beloved city of Houston.”
“I am excited to welcome and pass the torch to Tilman. He is a Houstonian, business leader and committed to the success and excellence of the Rockets both on and off the basketball court,” said Leslie Alexander, the current Rockets owner. “I have personally known Tilman for over 24 years and don’t think I could have found anyone more capable of continuing the winning tradition of our Houston Rockets.”