The Houston Rockets NBA franchise announced this week that it has been purchased by Tilman Fertitta, owner of the Golden Nugget Casinos and Hotels. Though the team did not disclose details of the transaction, a source close to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said that Fertitta paid $2.2 billion for the club.
In a press release issued by the Rockets, Fertitta said:
I am truly honored to have been chosen as the next owner of the Houston Rockets. This is a life-long dream come true. 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 current Rockets owner Leslie Alexander. “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.”
Alexander is making a pretty penny off of the sale. He originally purchased the Rockets in 1993 for $85 million. Fertitta was in on the bidding, coming up just short with his offer of $81 million.
The $2.2 billion purchase price was well above the $1.65 billion valuation Forbes magazine placed on the franchise this year. According to Wojnarowski’s sources, there was a bidding war for the Rockets, as Alexander received multiple offers starting at $2 billion.
This is not Fertitta’s first foray into professional sports in the United States. He was one of the original investors in the Houston Texans, the NFL team which was established in 1999 and began play in 2002. He was required to sell his portion of the team in 2008, though, because of his gambling business. Though the NFL makes tons of money because of gambling, the league’s rules stated at the time that no staff member of a team could be associated with gambling.
In 2003, Fertitta bought the naming rights to the Crawford Boxes section of the Houston Astros’ Minute Maid Park, an area of seating beyond the left field wall. The section was renamed “Landry’s Crawford Boxes,” taking on the name of Fertitta’s massive restaurant company, Landry’s Inc., which actually owns Golden Nugget.
Tilman Fertitta also has a history with the Houston Rockets beyond his previous bid for the team, serving as an advisory director during the team’s back-to-back NBA championships in the 1993-1994 and 1994-1995 seasons.
Houston clearly has more important things to think about right now than what billionaire owns one of its sports teams, but the Rockets did acknowledge this in the announcement, saying, “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.”