Detroit businessman to assume team control

Updated: February 28, 2005, 11:15 PM ET
Associated Press

CLEVELAND -- LeBron James will soon have a new boss.

Detroit mortgage mogul Dan Gilbert will be introduced as the Cleveland Cavaliers next owner on Tuesday. The club has scheduled an afternoon news conference at Gund Arena to introduce Gilbert, who purchased the club for $375 million, and announce the ownership transfer.

On Monday, the NBA's board of governors concluded its vote to approve the sale to the 42-year-old Gilbert. He needed the consent of 23 of the league's 30 owners to assume control of the team, which Gordon Gund has owned since 1983.

Gund is staying on as a minority owner in a group that includes Grammy Award-winning R&B artist Usher. Gund will retain at least a 10-percent stake in the club.

During the first quarter of Monday night's game against the San Antonio Spurs, Gund, who is blind, walked to mid-court accompanied by his wife, Lulie, and his brother, George, and thanked Cleveland fans for their support.

"We're about to kick back now and become enthusiastic fans like all of you," said Gund, who was then given a standing ovation.

Usher's interest has James excited.

"That's pretty good that a person like that would even know about our franchise," James said. "It's great that a person like that would want to be part of Cleveland basketball. I don't know anything better."

Gilbert, founder of Livonia, Mich.-based Quicken Loans, the nation's largest online mortgage company, finalized his deal to buy the Cavaliers and the controlling rights to their downtown arena from Gund on Jan. 3.

Since then, Gilbert has been assembling an ownership group that includes David B. Katzman, vice chairman of Quicken Loans; Gund and Usher. All four will be present at Tuesday's news conference.

The team that Gilbert bought is in much better shape than the one Gund took over 22 years ago when he and his brother George purchased the Cavaliers from Ted Stepien for $20 million. That deal saved the franchise from moving.

Led by James, the Cavaliers are currently in second place in the Central Division, four games behind the defending NBA champion Detroit Pistons. Barring a complete collapse, Cleveland is on track to qualify for the NBA playoffs for the first time since 1998.

The league's expected approval is the final step in a process that included a thorough background check of Gilbert. He's being awarded the team despite a past that included an arrest for running a bookmaking ring while he was a student at Michigan State in the early 1980s.

Gilbert was accused of conspiring to violate state gambling laws. He was fined, given three years' probation and ordered to do 100 hours of community service. The felony was dropped after he completed the sentences.


Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press

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