HOUSTON (SportsRadio610)—Tillman Fertita’s love of the Houston Rockets go back a long way.
“I started listening to the San Diego Rockets when I was in junior high school when they said they were moving to Houston, Texas with Elvin Hayes,” he recalled. “That’s when I became a Houston Rocket fan, when they were in San Diego.”
Fertitta is now a lot more than a Rockets fan. In August, Fertitta agreed to buy the team for $2.2 billion. Last week, he was approved unanimously by the NBA’s board of governors, and Tuesday was introduced as the Rockets owner.
“This is the ultimate, you’re in a club of 30, and anybody can go build a boardwalk, anyone can go build an aquarium, anyone can build tall buildings, but not everybody gets to own an NBA franchise.”
Fertitta tried to buy the Rockets in 1993, but lost out to Leslie Alexander When Alexander decided to sell the team in July, Rockets CEO Tad Brown said he had a certain criteria that he was looking for in a buyer.
“He wanted (the new owner) to be someone that is a Houston native or someone who is passionate and committed to the city of Houston and all that it represents. Also someone that is going to embrace the culture and embrace the team, and the resources here and the people here to help us get to the next level through their passion and creativity. Someone who is going to be able to close quickly. Didn’t want this to be a sales process that could possibly get in the way of what could be a special season, and we didn’t want this to become a distraction to the team, and then finally (Alexander) just wanted a fair price.”
The $2.2 billion price tag Fertitta paid for the Rockets is the largest ever for a North American sports franchise, and he hopes it will remain in his family long after he’s gone.
“This is a generational asset, we looked at,” he said. “If you know us, we’re not big sellers of assets, we’re more acquirers. I would be extremely disappointed, and I think (his kids) would be too if any of y’all are still covering this team in 50 years when I’m not around, I think you’ll still be carrying it with the Fertitta family.”
To demonstrate how much buying the Rockets meant to his new boss, Brown described Fertitta’s reaction after being told Alexander was accepting his offer.
“It was the Friday that (Hurricane Harvey) was hitting, and we were closing the offices, and Tillman was sick, and it was just before that Leslie and I had a conversation and he said ‘I’d like you to go ahead and engage in closing discussions with Tillman’, and when I called him and we were face timing each other and amazed that we could actually both figure it out together, that it happened, Tillman put his head down and he started to cry.”
Fertitta wouldn’t say what type of owner he would be, citing the understated San Antonio Spurs owner Peter Holt and the loud, bombastic Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, but he did indicate that changes would be coming.
“Before this press conference, I didn’t think the player’s cafeteria was very nice, and we’re going to fix it.”