AP source: Pistons to sell team to Mike Ilitch
DETROIT (AP) - The Detroit Pistons have found a new owner and he knows Motor City sports.
The Pistons have decided to sell the team to Detroit Tigers and Detroit Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch, a person involved with the process said Tuesday. The person, who spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because of a confidentiality agreement, said both sides were negotiating financial terms.
Ilitch Holdings spokeswoman Jennifer Haselhuhn said the organization signed a nondisclosure agreement earlier this year and cannot comment. Mayor Dave Bing, former Pistons star, said Tuesday “the deal is not done, but we remain optimistic.”
If the sale goes through, the 81-year-old Ilitch would be the only person to own and control teams in three of North America’s four major professional leagues. Ted Turner once owned the Atlanta Braves, Hawks and Thrashers.
The Pistons sale could have significant ramifications for where the area’s pro teams play _ in Detroit or its suburbs.
If Ilitch owns both the Red Wings and Pistons, he could likely leverage a deal with Detroit and Wayne County officials to finance a new arena in the city because they wouldn’t want him move the storied hockey team to The Palace in suburban Auburn Hills, where the Pistons play.
The Pistons played at Detroit’s Cobo Arena from 1961-78, then played at the Pontiac Silverdome until 1988, when they moved to Auburn Hills. Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, whose county includes the suburb, has said he would encourage Ilitch to keep the team at The Palace.
Ilitch, a Detroit native, has refused to move the Tigers or Red Wings to the suburbs. He spent a lot of money to build Comerica Park across the street from Fox Theatre, which he spent $12 million to refurbish, his sports bar and a slew of parking lots that possibly will be the site of a new arena.
“You’re not going to find a better owner,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said last month. “He hires people, lets them do their jobs and he’s not afraid to spend money.”
Dan Gilbert, owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers as well as founder and chairman of Detroit-based Quicken Loans, told The Associated Press that an Ilitch-owned Pistons is good for the team and the city. He also endorsed a single downtown facility serving both the Pistons and Red Wings.
“It would be just another great momentum builder for the urban core here downtown,” said Gilbert, who just orchestrated the move of 1,700 employees to downtown Detroit.
Ilitch bought the Red Wings in 1982 for a reported $8 million. He turned a franchise that sunk so low it was called the “Dead Wings,” into one of the best of the past two decades, with four Stanley Cups and 19 straight postseason appearances _ the longest active streak in sports.