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NBA Cavs sold for $375 million



Published: Tue, January 4, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The Cavs new owner was unsuccessful in buying the Bucks last year.

CLEVELAND (AP) -- At 5-foot-6, Dan Gilbert never had a realistic chance of playing in the NBA. So he discovered another way into the league: owning the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Gilbert, founder of the nation's largest online mortgage company, bought the Cavaliers for $375 million on Monday from owner Gordon Gund, inheriting a team that is soaring to new heights with LeBron James.

"It's been a long, long dream," said Gilbert, founder of Quicken Loans. "I'm definitely pinching myself. This is something I've talked about since I was a kid 30 years ago."

The Detroit businessman heads a group of investors that will assume ownership of the Cavaliers and operational control of the 20,000-seat Gund Arena once the league's Board of Governors approves the deal.

Gund and his brother George bought the team from Ted Stepien in 1983 for $20 million. Gordon Gund will maintain a minority stake of at least 10 percent, a source with knowledge of the terms of the sale told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. The amount of cash changing hands will be further reduced by Gilbert's assumption of debt, the source said.

A dream realized

In buying the Cavaliers, the 42-year-old Gilbert has satisfied a sports craving that dates to a childhood spent rooting for the Detroit Lions, who have endured years of frustration -- just like the Cavaliers. Gilbert failed in an attempt to buy the Milwaukee Brewers last year.

Primarily because of James, the league's reigning Rookie of the Year, the Cavaliers, who won just 17 games two years ago, have never been more visible or valuable since joining the league in 1970.

"As great as one person might be, you can't base your decisions on one person," Gilbert said. "He's certainly a big part of the equation."

Gilbert said he has no plans to relocate the Cavaliers, a possibility that had made Cleveland residents, some of whom are still bitter about Art Modell moving the Browns to Baltimore in 1995, nervous when they heard Gund was selling.

"They will be staying put in downtown Cleveland -- right where they belong," he said.

The Cavaliers have a lease agreement with the city that runs through 2027.

Because of strict NBA rules, Gilbert was unable to discuss any of the tough personnel decisions he'll be facing in his first few seasons as owner. Cavs center Zydrunas Ilgauskas and guard Jeff McInnis are in the final contract years, and after next season, the team will be able to offer James a multi-year extension.

"We'll have to be smart about things," Gilbert said.

Gilbert's background

A communications major at Michigan State, Gilbert began building his business in his first year of law school when he invested $5,000 to launch the online mortgage business Rock Financial.

In 1998, he sold the company for $370 million only to buy it back four years later. According to Forbes, Rock Financial closed mortgages totaling more than $12 billion last year.

Gilbert's cutting-edge background as an entrepreneur and his age have drawn immediate comparisons to Dallas owner Mark Cuban, known for his brash business sense and animated courtside antics.

Gilbert, though, plans to cut his own path.

"There's only one Mark Cuban," Gilbert joked, "and my hair is a lot shorter than his."




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