Group including Laettner, Davis agrees to buy Grizz

Updated: October 2, 2006, 6:52 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- An investment group that includes Christian Laettner and his former Duke teammate Brian Davis has reached an agreement to buy 70 percent of the Memphis Grizzlies.

Laettner is also interested in returning to the NBA to play for the Grizzlies, according to Davis.

"We'll try to make that happen as soon as possible," Davis said at a news conference Monday.

Laettner, who was with the league for 13 years, left the NBA after the 2004-05 season with Miami.

Memphis coach Mike Fratello said he had heard nothing about Laettner wanting to return to the NBA.

"I guess if you own the team, you can put yourself on the roster," Fratello said.

Davis said an agreement was reached with billionaire Michael Heisley to buy his majority 70 percent interest in the team for about $360 million. Davis and Laettner are putting a total of $40 million of their own money into the project. The remainder will come from investors he did not identify, but Davis said he has lined up the money for the purchase.

Members of the group will be made public, he said, after the team's minority owners decide if they will make an offer for the franchise.

Davis, who played in four Final Fours while at Duke from 1989-92, said he wants president Jerry West and Fratello to stay with the Grizzlies.

He added that he would like to sign West to a lifetime contract, though West said it was too early for him to decide on his long-range plans, "so we'll see what happens."

The sale will take several months to complete because the minority owners have the right of first refusal for 60 days from the date they are notified. The sale also must be approved by the NBA, and Heisley said he expects to remain with the team for several months.

AutoZone founder J.R. "Pitt" Hyde, a minority owner and business leader who helped bring the Grizzlies to town, said a decision on trying to match Davis' offer will take several weeks.

"In evaluating this whole proposition, our No. 1 concern will be what's in the best interest for the city of Memphis," Hyde said.

Heisley bought the franchise in Vancouver in 2000 for $160 million and moved it to Memphis the following year.

The Memphis Commercial Appeal, citing team insiders, reported Sunday that the Grizzlies lost more than $40 million following the 2005-06 season, spurring Heisley to try to sell his majority share. The newspaper first reported the sale Sunday.

But Heisley said his motivations for selling were not purely financial.

"I put a lot of time and a lot of money in this franchise. But I look at it and say, 'Am I the person who can best take this team to the next level?' And I don't think I am the person who can do as good a job as Brian can do," Heisley said. "I'm almost 70 years of age, and I'm not going to suddenly be out there high-fiving with players. He will."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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