Billionaire Dan Gilbert, the founder of Rock Ventures and Quicken Loans, as well as the principal owner of the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers, has made his mark in Detroit, with a significant financial and real-estate investment in the downtown renaissance.
Gilbert’s name dropped into the NBA rumor mill Wednesday as ESPN’s Steven A. Smith dropped an interesting nugget on “First Take” that Gilbert could be considering selling the Cavaliers. With LeBron James’ option to become a free agent after this season, it’s an interesting supposition, with Gilbert looking to cash out while the team has maximum value.
Not so fast.
A source close to the situation told The Detroit News that there is “zero truth” to Smith’s assertion that Gilbert is contemplating a sale.
The source added that there has been “no discussion whatsoever” and Gilbert is “not selling the team and is entirely committed to the Cavaliers and Cleveland.”
Gilbert has budding business ventures, and they are continuing to invest and expand in both Detroit and Cleveland.
Smith’s comments on Wednesday also fueled speculation that if Gilbert sold the Cavaliers, that he might also be interested in buying the Pistons. It’s a reprise of a rumor that began in 2014, when James returned to the Cavaliers after winning two championships with the Miami Heat.
More than that, Smith spoke in relation to James and the Cavaliers’ current turmoil, having lost seven of their last 10 games and dropping in the Eastern Conference standings.
“I’ll tell you the No. 1 reason why LeBron ain’t gonna capitulate to anything that Dan Gilbert wants to do — because what Dan Gilbert wants to do, from what I’m being told, is sell the team,” Smith said. “They’re more viable as a commodity if LeBron James is on your squad, as opposed to if LeBron James leaves.
“That’s one of the reasons why Dan Gilbert wanted him to commit to three to five years: because within that time span, you sell the team, you get money out the wazoo, and LeBron is left.”
What’s interesting is that Smith mentioned it as unsourced information he’s been told rather than hard news he was reporting, so the veracity of his statement is lessened. It still makes for good NBA rumor fodder and what Gilbert’s long-term plans could be, especially if James decides he wants to leave after this season and go to another team.
On the other side of the rumor equation, there is no indication that the Pistons are up for sale. Tom Gores, founder of Platinum Equity, purchased the team in 2011 for $325 million and moved them downtown to play at Little Caesars Arena, in a joint venture with the Ilitch family, which owns the Red Wings.
Forbes estimated the Pistons’ value at $900 million last year, ranking 21st among NBA teams. That includes The Palace of Auburn Hills, which still houses the administrative offices for Palace Sports & Entertainment and reportedly is up for sale. The Pistons plan to move all of their operations to a new headquarters in midtown Detroit in summer 2019.
Forbes ranked the Cavaliers 11th among NBA franchises, with a valuation of $1.2 billion, despite their smaller market. Gilbert purchased the Cavs in 2005 for $375 million.
Though Gilbert ad Gores partnered in an attempt to get a Major League Soccer franchise in downtown Detroit, there’s no additional indication that they would make a deal on their competing NBA franchises.
Staff writer Christine Ferretti contributed.