Restaurant, casino owner to buy Rockets for $2.2 billion

HOUSTON (AP) — Restaurant and casino owner Tilman Fertitta agreed to buy the Houston Rockets from Leslie Alexander on Tuesday for an NBA-record $2.2 billion, a person with knowledge of the details said.

The price surpasses the $2 billion Steve Ballmer paid for the Los Angeles Clippers in 2014. The value was confirmed to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because terms were to remain private.

The deal must be approved by the NBA Board of Governors. It includes Clutch City Sports and Entertainment, which puts on shows and concerts at the Toyota Center.

“I am truly honored to have been chosen as the next owner of the Houston Rockets. This is a life-long dream come true,” he said. “Leslie Alexander has been one of the best owners in all of sports, and I thank him immensely for this opportunity ... I am overwhelmed with emotion to have this opportunity in my beloved city of Houston.”

Fertitta will be the team’s sole owner. He is the owner of the Landry’s restaurant chain and Golden Nugget casino and hotels. He was born in Galveston, Texas and has lived in Houston his entire adult life. The 60-year-old billionaire is the chairman of the board of regents of the University of Houston System and star of the reality show “Billion Dollar Buyer” on CNBC.

Alexander, who announced the team was for sale in July, took over as owner on July 30, 1993, and the Rockets went on to win back-to-back titles in 1994-95 behind the likes of Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler. In 24 seasons under Alexander, the Rockets have won 56.9 percent of their games, fifth-highest in the league.

“I am excited to welcome and pass the torch to Tilman,” Alexander said. “He is a Houstonian, business leader and committed to the success and excellence of the Rockets both on and off the basketball court. I have personally known Tilman for over 24 years and don’t think I could have found anyone more capable of continuing the winning tradition of our Houston Rockets.”

The 74-year-old Alexander decided to sale the team to spend more time with family and working on his charitable endeavors.

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