Brian Davis and former Duke teammate Christian Laettner made headlines last week when it was announced that the two were leading a group of investors who agreed to buy a majority stake in the Memphis Grizzlies.
Although Davis made his first aggressive attempt to purchase an NBA team-the Miami Heat-only four years ago, his growth as a businessman began when the former Duke basketball player was in college in the late 1980s and early 90s.
"I grew up in Atlantic City, and I've always had a fascination for Monopoly," he said. "I knew ultimately that I'd be involved with buying stuff."
During his time at Duke, while his teammates spent their summers polishing their basketball skills, Davis spent his time off working on Wall Street for companies such as Morgan Stanley.
In 1989, while working for Senator Terry Sanford, the former Duke president and North Carolina governor, Davis began to contemplate ways to develop real estate in Durham. Davis was inspired by Sanford's son, Terry Jr., who owned the development firm Montrose Capital and was responsible for the creation of Erwin Square and Brightleaf Square.
Since that time, Davis has achieved his dream, spending his energy as a real-estate entrepreneur. He first developed property in Durham, and now has plans to expand his growing business portfolio to four other cities on the East Coast.
"Me and Christian decided that when we couldn't find a place to live close to campus, that we would create very cool apartments like they have in [Washington] D.C. and New York," Davis said.
The players' vision became what is now the West Village apartments, located in downtown Durham and within walking distance of Duke's East Campus.
Davis and his community development company, Blue Devil Ventures, LLC, in which Laettner is also a principal, was responsible for West Village's construction. The neighborhood was completed in 2000 and includes 241 loft-style apartments and 36,000 square feet of retail space. Currently the West Village community is undergoing a major expansion that will result in an additional 375 apartments and over 200,000 more square feet in office and retail space.
In addition, Davis and business partners have purchased real estate in Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia and in parts of New Jersey, with similar intentions of community re-development.
Included in his Washington plans is the purchase of the Major League Soccer franchise D.C. United. Davis said he and other investors are close to purchasing the team and already have a plan for a new stadium and residential and commercial developments around it.
"The goal is to do something that will push the envelope, where people say 'you're crazy', but at the same time I know that... it excites me," Davis said. "I want to inspire people to do incredible things."
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Davis and Laettner, along with other unnamed investors, agreed last week to put up $40 million of the total $360 million price tag to purchase a 70 percent stake in the Grizzlies. Davis said he intends to be a very hands-on owner in Memphis, with plans to give his team direction.
"You can't evaluate if you're not there," he said. "The [owners] who are around-their teams tend to win. Dallas didn't win many games until [Mark] Cuban came to town. Sacramento [didn't win] until the Maloof brothers came around. When your players know that you're supporting them at a high level and you enjoy being around them, then they want to perform for you."
The former Duke basketball player said despite reports suggesting the opposite, he has no intention of getting rid of President of Basketball Operations Jerry West.
"I offered Jerry a lifetime contract and I told him that I really want to learn from him," Davis said. "I think his basketball mind is brilliant."
Davis also indicated that Laettner will not be suiting up for the Grizzlies in the near future.
"He got excited about the process, and it's something that we don't want to address until way down the road," Davis said. "It's probably something that will never happen."
Since their time at Duke, Davis and Laettner's friendship remains strong. Although they no longer play together on the court, the lessons they both learned from Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski and their success as Blue Devils will have a great impact on their new roles as owners of the Grizzlies.
"After playing for Coach K, my expectations are very high-we have to win a championship," Davis said. "I won't settle.... We won't be one of those franchises who just sell tickets. If we don't win a championship, it'll be a huge disappointment."