Billionaire Gores seals deal to buy Pistons

DETROIT (Reuters) – Los Angeles-based billionaire Tom Gores has reached a deal to buy the Detroit Pistons from the family that owns the NBA franchise.

The long-awaited sale of the team removes an uncertainty that had added to a disastrous year for the Pistons marked by tension between players and Coach John Kuester and a losing record that puts them above only the Cleveland Cavaliers in their division.

Final terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Forbes magazine had valued the Pistons franchise at about $480 million a year ago and about $360 million this year.

In addition to the Pistons, Gores and his private equity firm Platinum Equity will acquire the Palace at Auburn Hills, where the team plays, and the DTE Energy Music Theater, a concert venue.

Gores, 46, was born in Israel but grew up in Michigan and attended Michigan State University. According to Forbes, his net worth stands at $2.4 billion.

The Pistons sale, expected to close by June 30, remains subject to approval by the NBA. Financing for the sale will be provided by Comerica Bank.

Gores had been negotiating to buy the Pistons from Karen Davidson, the primary owner of the franchise, since late last year.

Mike Illitch, the Detroit-based owner of Little Ceasar’s pizza, the Detroit Red Wings and the Detroit Tigers, had been the early leading bidder for the Pistons, but he failed to come to terms with Davidson.

“I know it’s been a long process and I appreciate the patience and support of the Detroit community,” Gores said in a statement. “I grew up here, I am glad to be back, and I am very excited about the possibilities looking forward.”

Karen Davidson’s husband, Bill Davidson, a lawyer and entrepreneur, bought the Pistons in 1974 for $6 million and built the franchise into a three-time NBA championship winner. Davidson died in 2009.

Bill Davidson, who died in 2009, has repeatedly said he hoped the team would stay in his family. Karen Davidson said in a statement that she believed Gores would be the right person to carry on her husband’s legacy.

(Reporting by Kevin Krolicki and Deepa Seetharaman; Editing by Jerry Norton)

Billionaire Gores seals deal to buy Pistons