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Pistons sale buzz centers on Ilitches

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Pistons sale buzz centers on Ilitches: Atlas Oil president said to be part of consortium

By Bill Shea

Sam Simon, president and chairman of Taylor-based fuel distributor Atlas Oil Co., is the latest name thought to be interested in the Detroit Pistons.

Sources familiar with the situation told Crain's that Simon would be part of an investment consortium led by Detroit's Mike and Marian Ilitch, the Little Caesars Enterprises Inc. pizza founders who also own the Detroit Tigers and the Detroit Red Wings.

“I can't comment on that. I can't confirm or deny it,” said Simon, who noted that he's a longtime close friend of Ilitch Holdings Inc. President Chris Ilitch and is a Pistons courtside season-ticket holder for 18 years.

“I'm a huge Pistons fan,” Simon said. “They need a person who has passion and the drive. They're missing an owner.”

He also was complimentary of the Ilitches: “They're a solid organization.”

Atlas, which employs nearly 400 people companywide and has annual revenue of $1 billion, is part of Simon Holdings Inc., which is the umbrella organization for Simon's investments which also include real estate and trucking entities.

Atlas recently inked a deal to buy 33 BP North America Inc. gas stations, and it owns or supplies fuel to retail stations in at least 10 states and will manage or supply nearly 400 locations when the current sale is complete.

Pistons owner Karen Davidson told reporters last week that the basketball team will soon have a new owner, and details are emerging on who might buy the National Basketball Association franchise along with Auburn Hills-based Palace Sports & Entertainment, which manages venues and the team.

Davidson announced in January that she wants to sell the team and entertainment venue she inherited when her auto glass industrialist husband, Guardian Industries Inc. Chairman William Davidson, died in March 2009. Palace Sports recently confirmed that it has retained Citi Private Bank's Sports Finance and Advisory to act as a financial adviser on a sale.

The team is estimated by Forbes.com to be worth $479 million. Any deal for the team is expected to include PS&E, which includes The Palace of Auburn Hills, DTE Energy Music Theatre and the contract to manage Meadow Brook Music Festival for Oakland University.

The Ilitches hired longtime PS&E President Tom Wilson in February to oversee expansion of their sports and venue holdings.

They're believed to want a new downtown Detroit arena for the Red Wings, and Wilson has said several times that it would be logical to build a joint venue for the hockey team and the Pistons.

In a legal squabble that erupted this month between Ilitch-owned Olympia Entertainment Inc. and Palace Sports over documents taken by former PS&E employees who left to work with Wilson, it was noted that Wilson had approached Davidson on behalf of the Ilitches about buying the Pistons and the entertainment company.

Neither organization will comment publicly about the matter.

Another name that's been linked to a Pistons deal is former Cleveland Cavaliers minority owner David Katzman.

He's managing partner of Farmington Hills-based Camelot Ventures Group, formed in October 2008 to handle various investments for a consortium of partners. Among those investments are Livonia-based Fathead LLC.

Katzman was part of the investment group led by Quicken Loans/Rock Financial founder Dan Gilbert that bought the Cavaliers for $375 million in 2005.

Katzman reportedly had a falling out with Gilbert and sold his stake in the team for a reported $70 million. Word of his interest in the Pistons emerged shortly after Davidson said the team was for sale.

A message was left for Katzman on Friday but the call was not returned.

Also on record as expressing interest in the Pistons is Rochester businessman Andy Appleby. He spent 17 years as a PS&E executive before launching his own sports marketing and investment firm, General Sports and Entertainment LLC, in 1998.

Appleby owned a minor-league baseball team for a time and was interested in buying the National Hockey League's St. Louis Blues before leading a group of investors in buying English Premier League soccer team Derby County F.C. Ltd. two years ago.

He said in February that his group is interested in buying the Pistons as part of an effort to own a U.S. pro sports franchise.

The group is believed to include former Yahoo Inc. president and COO Jeff Mallett — who now is principal owner of the San Francisco Giants and an investor in the new Major League Soccer expansion team that begins play next year in Vancouver — and Tom Ricketts, co-owner and chairman of the Chicago Cubs, which his family bought in October for $845 million.

Ricketts is CEO of Chicago investment bank Incapital LLC.

Appleby declined to comment last week on the Pistons situation.

Any sale of the Pistons would require a vote of the NBA's other team owners.

http://www.crainsdetroit.com/article/20100627/FREE/306279978/1069#

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I think it's safe to say if the Ilitch's are a part of a group that ends up buying the Pistons - they'll move the Red Wings outta the Joe, and into the Palace...Several years from now a new home for both teams would be built behind the FOX Theatre.

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I've been hearing rumors of the Illitches trying to take over for a while now. I wouldn't be surprised in the least if Olympia had three major league teams under its belt in the coming years.

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That would be sweet if Illitch bought the Pistons too. I guess I look at Illitch as if he were the champion of the city and he at least cares. I'd love to have a passionate owner in charge again

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Yeah, been hearing this one for quite some time and wouldn't even doubt if it happens. There will be a shared arena down the road here which I hate. I don't mind the Pistons downtown one bit but I really truly think the Wings need their own, updated, Olympia looking hockey barn. Old time team needs their own old time arena again.

F.Michael, 55fan and Hockeymom1960 like this

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yea I'd also like to see an MLS team...but I'm not sure how many other possible new owners there are that will keep the team in detroit

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Yeah, been hearing this one for quite some time and wouldn't even doubt if it happens. There will be a shared arena down the road here which I hate. I don't mind the Pistons downtown one bit but I really truly think the Wings need their own, updated, Olympia looking hockey barn. Old time team needs their own old time arena again.

:thumbup:

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I read that earlier this year the old Silverdome was bought by a Toronto family, and they want to use it for a Detroit MLS expansion team. Of course some renovating would be done and I'd absolutely love for Detroit to get an MLS team. Vancouver and and Portland will be brought into the league this season, and Montreal is next in line to get a team, so getting Detroit would put the league at 20 teams. How does Motor City FC sound? :hehe:

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Wrong forum?

WTF do you care? If you don't like something that has nothing to do with you then don't make a big deal out of it.

Zeowingsfan likes this

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WTF do you care? If you don't like something that has nothing to do with you then don't make a big deal out of it.

simply awesome, especially with that picture

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