Owner who made Yao Ming a star at Houston Rockets agrees record franchise sale as NBA pays tribute

NBA commissioner Adam Silver thanks Leslie Alexander for helping to grow the game in China with deal struck for US$2.2 billion sale

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 September, 2017, 1:50pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 September, 2017, 1:56pm

Houston Rockets owner Leslie Alexander has reached an agreement to sell the basketball franchise for US$2.2 billion, an NBA record, with a formal announcement expected this week.

“Well-respected around the league, he has been an active and influential owner whose vision helped to grow the game globally, especially in China,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said of Alexander in a statement.

The Rockets are one of the most popular teams in China, thanks largely to Hall of Famer Yao Ming spending his entire career in Houston.

“Leslie Alexander is a true competitor who always searched for the right move to make his teams better, Silver added.

“Under his ownership, he created a culture of excellence with strong management that attracted Hall of Famers, All-Stars and coaching giants and brought two NBA championships and four WNBA titles to Houston.”

The 73-year-old Alexander bought the franchise for US$85 million in 1993. Forbes valued the franchise in February at US$1.65 billion – the eighth-most valuable in the league – with revenue of US$244 million.

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The Rockets will be bought by Tilman Fertitta, a local restaurant mogul and one of many celebrity-status investors who made an offer for the franchise.

“It’s been my great joy and honour to own the Houston Rockets for the past 24 years,” Alexander said.

“I’ve had the incredible opportunity to witness true greatness through the players and coaches who have won championships for the city, been named to All-Star and All-NBA teams, enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame, and done so much for our franchise and our fans.”

Alexander had immediate success as an owner as the Rockets won NBA titles over the New York Knicks in 1994 and the Orlando Magic in 1995 behind the play of Hakeem Olajuwon.

“The Houston community has been home to me,” Alexander said. “I will continue to support the charities I have made commitments to throughout the years.

“I’ll always have a special place in my heart for the fans, partners, city officials and employees who care so deeply for this team.

“I’ve made this decision after much deliberation with my family and friends, and do so knowing the franchise is in great shape with the players, coaches and management team in place.”

Alexander put chief executive Tad Brown in charge to “oversee the sales process with the league office, supported by my management team.”