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Ilitch notifies Pistons of interest in purchase, would move team back downtown

Detroit Pistons logoDetroit Red Wings and Tigers owner Mike Ilitch formally notified Palace Sports and Entertainment of his interest in buying the NBA’s Detroit Pistons, adding that he’s like to see the team move back downtown to a new arena to be shared with the Wings.

Ilitch is already the biggest sports figure in Detroit, and adding the Pistons to his portfolio would create all sorts of efficiencies of scale, especially if he does move ahead with a new arena to replace Joe Louis Arena, one of the oldest facilities in the NHL.

The interest is not an aggressive move on Ilitch’s part: anyone interested in buying an NBA franchise must officially inform the league and the team of their intentions; that begins the negotiating process punctuated by nondisclosure forms and confidentiality agreements to cover all those things considered proprietary by the NBA.

The Ilitch bid is for the entire Palace Sports & Entertainment organization, not just for the Pistons, and would include the Palace of Auburn Hills and the DTE Energy Music Theater.

“No one should get too excited just yet, because this is the first step in what could be a long process,” said a statement issued by the Ilitch organization. “There is a lot of due diligence to take place, and who even knows if the Pistons would accept any potential future offer. But I can tell you that we are serious about this, we’ll be aggressive in the process, and we’re going to take a real hard run at it because it makes sense for our organization.”

Still, for Ilitch it is a bold move. We’re not totally sure about the economics involved: moving the Pistons away from The Palace of Auburn Hills (which would also be part of the transaction) takes away a huge tenant from that facility, though adding that venue to the Ilitch portfolio would pretty much let him set the rates for promoters with concerts and other events. (Besides Tiger Stadium and a potential new downtown arena, an Ilitch firm also manages the Fox Theater downtown.)

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