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Mike Ilitch's statement on his desire to buy the Detroit Pistons, and other details (UPDATED)
Posted 8/9/2010 12:12 PM EDT on crainsdetroit.com
It's curious to me that Mike Ilitch would issue a statement on their interest in buying the Pistons so early in the process. The Palace Sports folks I talked to this morning were not aware an announcement was coming.
Or is it early? Court records from a lawsuit involving Palace Sports personnel who jumped ship to the Ilitch organization indicate that Tom Wilson, the ex-PS&E boss, approached Pistons owner Karen Davidson earlier this year about a deal. She said not too long ago that a deal was near. Is it this one?
The Pistons aren't talking. Is today's statement designed to apply some pressure? Or were the Ilitches figuring that the news was going to leak anyway, so they're simply trying to get in front of it and manage the story on their terms?
In their official statement, the Ilitches say they're worried about the Pistons leaving town. Las Vegas and Pittsburgh are the two cities mentioned most in rumors. Thus far, there's been little more than speculation and zero substance to any Pistons relocation.
That said, the possibility of the Pistons moving has some fans worried. Mike Ilitch would certainly would win plenty of local good will by ensuring the team stays in town.
Interestingly, I noticed last week an Ilitch Charities billboard pop up along I-75 downtown. Are the Ilitches waging a hearts and minds campaign? Food for thought.
Tom Wilson said earlier this year that a half-dozen people or groups had expressed interest in the Pistons. We know the Ilitches are one. Rochester-based sports marketer and investor Andy Appleby, who led a consortium that bought an English pro soccer team in 2008, previously confirmed his group was interested. He declined comment today. Nothing has been said about other buyers.
If Ilitch ends up buying the Pistons, he'll be the only majority owner of three U.S. major league franchises (link).
Some back-patting: Crain's first reported that the Ilitches were serious about buying the Pistons on June 10 (link) and June 27 (link).
This is the full text statement issued today by the Ilitches:
"Marian and I grew up here, we raised our family here and we built our businesses here. Detroit is our home. When I read in the paper there was the chance that this great sports town could lose one of its professional sports franchises, I just didn't see how we could let that happen. The Pistons, just like the Red Wings, Tigers and the Lions, have a rich and storied tradition in this community and they've brought pride to fans and our community. You all know I love sports - all sports, from amateur sports to the various pro sports we've had the privilege to be involved with, and like a lot of others I'm sure, I really want to see the Pistons remain the Detroit Pistons.
"We talked about it internally and when you take our 33 years of experience in professional sports, our commitment to this community, our passion for winning and pursuing championships, and you couple that with the opportunity to have a local, engaged owner for the Pistons, we decided to take a run at it. We believe we could bring a lot to the table that could be tremendously positive for the Pistons franchise, the NBA, and the fans of this community. So, today, we formally notified the Detroit Pistons that we have interest in purchasing the team. This is a required first-step and we look forward to the opportunity to move forward in the process."
Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano also issued a statement today: “It was a great pleasure working with the Ilitches on the Comerica Park project. The county is committed to working with the Ilitch organization and the city of Detroit to build a new arena downtown. The Ilitch family has shown a passion and commitment to Detroit, Wayne County, as well as the Red Wings and Tigers. We look forward to working with them in the future.”
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