Detroit Internet mortgage mogul Daniel Gilbert has purchased the Cleveland Cavaliers and the team's downtown arena for a reported $375 million from longtime owner Gordon Gund.
"It's always been a big thought in the back of my mind, that one day a few of us would be able to do this and apply maybe some of our skills and experience in marketing in something that's more exciting than mortgages and a heck of a lot of fun," said Gilbert, 42, who started a mortgage business as a first-year law student at Wayne State University nearly two decades ago.
Gilbert, who failed in his attempt to purchase the Milwaukee Brewers this past summer, said one of the driving forces in buying the Cavaliers was "to take a team over in a city that hasn't had a champion in over 41 years and be part of building a team that does make it happen."
Second-year star LeBron James has put the 35-year-old Cavaliers back on the map after years of sagging ticket sales and poor play. The team is leading the Central Division and its popularity has soared since James's arrival.
"The Cleveland opportunity is a very, very exciting one," Gilbert said.
Gilbert said the team will stay in Cleveland, where it will become part of his corporate family, which includes Quicken Loans, the largest online mortgage lender, and Detroit-based Rock Financial, Michigan's largest mortgage company.
Although financial terms were not immediately known, Gilbert heads an ownership group that reportedly offered Gund $375 million, according to the Associated Press. Gilbert declined to discuss the deal, except to say that he would be the majority partner and responsible for day-to-day operations.
Gilbert said Gund, whose family bought the team in 1983 for $20 million, will retain a minority stake in the franchise. He said he expects the NBA approval process to take about three months, and more partners may be announced after NBA approval.
The Cavaliers are the fourth NBA team to be sold in the past year; most recently the Phoenix Suns sold for $401 million. The other teams were the Atlanta Hawks ($250 million) and New Jersey Nets ($300 million).
Gilbert was in his first year of law school at Wayne State, in Detroit, when he invested $5,000 -- his life savings -- to launch Rock Financial, which later became a division of Quicken Loans. In 1998, he sold the company for $370 million only to buy it back two years later. According to Forbes, Rock Financial closed mortgages totaling more than $12 billion last year.
-- Thomas Heath