AUBURN HILLS (WWJ) – With news of the pending sale of the Detroit Pistons to billionaire financier and Michigan native Tom Gores, many are wondering if the franchise will be staying at The Palace in Auburn Hills.
Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson told WWJ he has received personal assurances from the Gores family that the Pistons will remain at The Palace.
Saying he was delighted to hear the news of the pending sale of the Pistons to Gores, Patterson said talk of moving the franchise can now end.
“Mr. Gores has made it very clear he’s going to keep the Pistons at The Palace of Auburn Hills in Oakland County. You’ll know that I’m satisfied with those plans,” Patterson said.
Although they may be friends, Patterson said he was against Tigers and Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch buying the team.
“I know Mike personally as a friend, but I was not rooting for him in this deal, because he made it very clear he was going to move the Pistons from The Palace to downtown Detroit. So, I would have been surprised had he pulled that off. I was fully expecting Gores to prevail and I’ve been saying that all along,” Patterson said.
Either way, Auburn Hills City Manager Pete Auger admitted his happiness that the uncertainty of the ordeal is over.
“All the uncertainty causes all kinds of anxiety and it’s just a great thing when people know the direction that you’re going. You can already tell in the voices of the people that you talk to that they’re really looking forward to this. And I kind of think its fun to get somebody new in town that nobody knows. If the reputation for companies that he’s buying make him more profitable, to make him more successful, those are all good things,” Auger said.
Several business owners whose clientele center on events at The Palace were very concerned about the possibility of the Pistons leaving for a new home.
“Any move would have been substantial. Certainly for businesses who really operate in and around The Palace. I mean, restaurants and bars, it’s the other companies who survive from the traffic that’s generated around The Palace. Their the ones who would have been hurt and probably in many cases put right out of business,” Patterson said.
As part of the deal, Gores also buys Palace Sports and Entertainment, which includes the DTE Energy Music Theater.
Alan Ostfield, President and CEO of the Pistons and Palace Sports and Entertainment said Gores understands the organization’s value.
“This business is making more money in fiscal 2011 than we did in fiscal 2010. Tom Gores has seen that. He’s seen our numbers and he’s been involved with the numbers on a daily basis. He has some of the most impressive and aggressive diligence guys I’ve ever seen in my 20 years of doing transactions. And these guys are smart; they know exactly what they’re getting,” Ostfield said.
“These guys are committed to the organization and they are committed to Michigan. Tom is a local guy, he’s from the area, he has family in the area and he has businesses in the area. He is competitive as heck and he certainly wants to win. So, I certainly understand the private equity business. I think that the commitment that they’ve shown to us should give us all a great degree of comfort in that regard,” Ostfield continued.
Gores is buying the properties from Karen Davidson, who became the owner after her husband, Bill, died in March 2009. Ostfield said he’s confident Gores will carry on the legacy of former owner Bill Davidson.
“The other thing about Tom Gores, he has expressed his sincere concern for Mr. D’s legacy and he takes that seriously. So every time I talk to him, he talks about Mr. D. He talks about what Mr. D stood for. He talks about how I feel about what Mr. D stood for and I think Karen did very well in that regard,” Ostfield said.
What does Pistons Coach John Kuester think about the deal? “I’m happy for Karen Davidson and the Davidson family and that’s wonderful news for them. And I’m excited that Mr. Gores will bring a lot of excitement to this organization,” he said.
Although a purchase price for the franchise has not been disclosed, Forbes magazine had valued the Pistons franchise at about $480 million a year ago and about $360 million this year.
The sale, which is expected to close by June 30th, remains subject to approval by the National Basketball Association.
(Copyright 2011 by WWJ Newsradio 950. All Rights Reserved.)