The owner of the Detroit Pistons and Auburn Hills-based Palace Sports & Entertainment Inc. has chosen to open negotiations to sell the basketball team and venue management company to Detroit pizza and sports industrialist Mike Ilitch, Crain's has learned.
It's believed that a deal will be worked out in the next 30 days.
Any sale of the Pistons will require a vote by the National Basketball Association's other team owners.
It's unknown how much Ilitch might pay for the team and PS&E, and a final purchase price is likely still not set. Crain's reported in September that bids were submitted around Labor Day.
[...] The Ilitch organization is interested in building a new downtown arena for the Red Wings, to replace aging city-owned Joe Louis Arena, and owning the Pistons and having them as a co-tenant is widely seen as beneficial to financing a new facility.
Mrs. D said all along she planned to sell the team by the start of the season. She may be cutting it close -- deals like this don't happen overnight, especially if the final sale price isn't yet set in stone -- but the two sides are apparently close enough to eliminate all other potential buyers.
We'll have more to come as it's revealed, but -- assuming this is a true -- this is a huge win for the franchise, as well as those who hope of someday seeing the team move from Auburn HIlls back to the city of Detroit.
What's your gut reaction? Are you nervous to see one ownership group control three of Detroit's major sports teams? Or does the Ilitch family's track record speak for itself? Let us know in the comments.
Update: Vince Ellis and Tom Walsh of the Detroit Free Press spoke to Detroit city council members about the possible move to Detroit (which, assuming this sale actually happens, obviously wouldn't happen for at least several years, and perhaps after a stint in which the Red Wings moved to the Palace during construction):
Asked whether a tax incentive would be included in a pitch to bring the Pistons downtown, Council President Charles Pugh said, "I am open to whatever we have to do in the scope of the law.
"This could be the tipping point for our city. We need hope."
Council President Pro Tem Gary Brown said any incentives should come from the federal government instead of the city.
"It's going to be difficult to do this stadium with public dollars," said Brown, who supports the move. "There is no appetite for tax relief, even for this. It will be interesting to see how it will be financed."
In other words, who knows? I'd be stoked to have the team back where they belong, but the issue of public funding for private venues is extremely complicated (and, on a random side note, I always thought it was pretty awesome that Mr. D used his own money to do things his way on his timeline instead of waiting for years with his hand stretched out.)
In any event, Ilitch has at least one ally in Cavaliers owner (and Detroit businessman) Dan Gilbert. From MLive last week:
Noting the Sacramento Kings are the only other NBA team to play outside its city limits, Gilbert suggested there "is no Detroit basketball team. There's an Auburn Hills team."
"The Palace is beautiful," he said, "but if you're going to get that synergy, it's important that things be clustered together."