Billionaire Tom Gores to buy NBA’s Detroit Pistons

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DETROIT (AP) - The Detroit Pistons announced Friday that billionaire California investor Tom Gores has agreed to buy the struggling NBA franchise, ending a drawn-out sale by longtime owner Karen Davidson that stretched back before the season.

The tentative deal, which also includes The Palace of Auburn Hills and DTE Energy Music Theatre, must be approved by the NBA. Terms were not disclosed, but the deal is expected to close by June 30.

Gores, the chairman and CEO of Beverly Hills, Calif.-based Platinum Equity, also is buying the operating rights to the Meadow Brook Music Festival.

Davidson became the owner after her husband died in March 2009.

“We are pleased to welcome Tom Gores as the new owner of the Detroit Pistons and Palace Sports and Entertainment,” she said in a statement. “Just as my late husband, Bill Davidson, was the face of the Pistons, I am confident that Tom will bring the same energy, dedication and love to this organization. I look forward to seeing Tom follow in Bill’s footsteps, and carry on his legacy.”

Gores founded Platinum Equity in 1995, and in its 2010 list of the 400 richest people in America, Forbes put him in a tie for 153rd with a net worth of $2.4 billion. Gores, 46, is a Flint native and has a degree from Michigan State University, though he now lives in California with his wife and three children.

“I am very proud to have this opportunity to be part of such a tremendous organization,” Gores said. “I know it’s been a long process, and I appreciate the patience and support of the Detroit community. I have been impressed with the Davidson family and the way it has protected and built such a storied franchise.

“I grew up here, I am glad to be back and I am very excited about all the possibilities looking forward.”

Davidson had hoped to reach a deal to sell the team before the season. The Pistons were negotiating terms with Detroit Tigers and Detroit Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch around that time, but those talks fell apart. Gores was among the other suitors last year, along with The Postolos Group president George Postolos.

“We are very pleased that the Pistons will continue to call the Detroit area home,” Ilitch said in a statement. “Even though we were only engaged in the sale process for a short period of time last year, I was truly amazed by all of the kind words and tremendous support we received from fans and the entire community.”

The Pistons play in suburban Auburn Hills, in Oakland County. County Executive L. Brooks Patterson said it’s a sale with “many complex parts,” referring to the team, The Palace and other entertainment venues.

“I wasn’t surprised to see long negotiations,” he said. “I am delighted with Gores‘ ownership. He’s made it clear he’s keeping the team in Auburn Hills in Oakland County, and there’s no question where my loyalties are.”

Gores‘ private equity firm made a popular splash a year ago in the community of Cadillac, 200 miles northwest of Detroit. Platinum Equity essentially bought the bankrupt Four Winns boat manufacturing company in a move officials said saved or created hundreds of jobs.

“I am completely convinced that unless Mr. Gores had bought the company and his particular interest in Michigan that the facility would close down, and they would have moved all their manufacturing out of Michigan,” said Paul Brown, vice president of capital markets for the Michigan Economic Development Corp.

The Pistons‘ sale, if approved, will end the long and storied ownership of the team by the Davidson family.

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