The move caught most sports-business insiders off guard: there had been no chatter that the team was on the market, much less that Alexander was even considering a sale. From ESPN:
“Leslie Alexander has put the Houston Rockets and Clutch City Sports and Entertainment up for sale,” Rockets CEO Tad Brown said in a statement, hours after he said Alexander made the decision. “It’s been a great joy in his life and pleasure to be the owner of the Houston Rockets. The great players, Hall of Fame players and coaches, championships won, All-NBA teams made. Just the connection with the community that’s been established over 24 years has been an incredible opportunity that he’s just loved.”
Clutch City Sports and Entertainment is the corporate entity running Toyota Center.
Alexander bought the Rockets in 1993 for $85 million. With NBA teams rarely hitting the open market, it will be interesting to see how many potential ownership groups pop up. Forbes says the Rockets are worth $1.65 billion, but that’s a fantasy number. Wes Edens and Marc Lasry bought a majority share of the Milwaukee Bucks in 2014 at a valuation of $550 million, with Herb Kohl retaining a minority share. The Sacramento Kings sold earlier that year for $534 million, although there was an offer on the table from Seattle interests for $625 million.
As noted, the Rockets have fostered an international presence thanks to former All-Star Yao Ming fostering a following in his home nation, China. That name recognition could put the Rockets in play as an international investment. But given how infrequently NBA teams hit the open market, it will be fascinating to watch who pops up with serious offers.