The independent news organization of Duke University

Former Dukies to buy Grizzlies

An investment group led by former Duke basketball stars Christian Laettner and Brian Davis has reached an agreement to buy a majority stake in the NBA's Memphis Grizzlies.

Davis and Laettner will invest $40 million of the group's $360 million to purchase 70 percent of the Grizzlies from billionaire Michael Heisley, Davis said at a news conference Monday.

"I am honored and thrilled to have an opportunity to become majority owner of the Memphis Grizzlies," Davis said. "I believe very strongly in the future of this franchise and in the future of Memphis."

Before the deal is official, the minority owners of the team will have a chance to match the terms of the agreement, and the NBA's Board of Governors must also approve the ownership transaction.

Davis and Laettner were members of the men's basketball team from 1988 to 1992, playing in the Final Four each year. The players were co-captains in 1992, when Duke won the second of its back-to-back national championships.

After leaving Duke, Laettner went on to a 14-year NBA career. Davis briefly played professionally before returning to Durham to help found Blue Devil Ventures. Laettner and Tom Niemann, Fuqua '91, are also principals in the real estate development company.

During the summer of 2005, Laettner and Davis together donated $2 million to the Department of Athletics to endow a men's basketball scholarship and help fund the Center for Athletic Excellence.

Davis said Laettner, who did not play last season, would be interested in returning to the NBA on the Grizzlies.

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

The Grizzlies reportedly lost $40 million last season, and some think Davis' group will shake up the franchise.

But Davis said he would like Fratello and Jerry West, Grizzlies' president of basketball operations, to stay on with the team, and he said he plans on working with the Memphis community.

"I intend to move my family to Memphis and invest money in real estate developments in this city," Davis said. "I look forward to working closely with our local owners and admire their commitment to the Grizzlies and the entire community."

Davis declined to name the other partners in his Grizzly Acquisition Holdings, LLC, but he said "two large institutions" and "a couple of high net-worth individuals" comprise the partnership.

Heisley said Davis was the right person to lead the Grizzlies forward.

"I put a lot of time and a lot of money in this franchise," Heisley said. "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."

The Associated Press contributed reporting to this story.


Share and discuss “Former Dukies to buy Grizzlies” on social media.