Oakland County turned down offer to buy Palace

The Detroit News

Oakland County rejected a $384 million offer in June to buy the Palace of Auburn Hills, county officials confirmed Monday.

The county, in a news release issued late Monday, said it was “acting in a fiscally responsible manner on behalf of taxpayers” when it rejected the proposal that would have allowed the facility to be leased back to the Detroit Pistons. The Palace and Pistons are both owned by Tom Gores’ Platinum Equity group.

The proposal would have required the county to issue $270 million in bonds and was presented to administrators in the months before June, the statement said.

“Oakland County turned down the offer because it did not want to risk having taxpayers shoulder another Silverdome,” the county statement read. “Plus, the county thinks the property is better in the hands of Mr. Gores and his team along with their vision for the future.”

The talks come amid speculation the Pistons could move downtown Detroit to join the Red Wings in Little Caesars Arena, which is scheduled to open in 2017.

During the past year, there’s been a courtship between Platinum Equity group and the Ilitch family. The Ilitches tried to buy the Pistons before Gores became the owner, and Gores have said they would like the Pistons to move downtown.

In June 2015, Gores launched something called Project “Big Math,” a sweeping idea for change and economic growth for the city of Detroit and state of Michigan. That included hiring sports agent Arn Tellem as vice chairman of Palace Sports and Entertainment.

“We are going to charter Arn to study that (moving downtown),” Gores said at the time. “It will be one of his first things.”

In January, Gores added that, “I’d say we’re in the diligence process and we’re keeping a close eye on it but we just made a philosophical decision that we want to do more in Detroit. Whether it’s a stadium or not, let’s just get our feet on the ground.”

It’s been almost 40 years since the Pistons last played in downtown Detroit, at times in the Cobo Arena and at old Olympia Stadium, also to the Red Wings. Olympia has been demolished and the Arena converted to space in the expanded Cobo Center.

Since 1988, the Pistons have been a fixture at the Palace of Auburn Hills, after moving to the Pontiac Silverdome from Cobo a decade earlier.

The team has won three championships in the Palace.