Restaurant, casino owner to buy Rockets from Alexander

HOUSTON (AP) — Tilman Fertitta, a billionaire restaurant and casino owner from Houston, agreed to buy the Houston Rockets from Leslie Alexander on Tuesday.

Terms were not released and must be approved by the NBA Board of Governors. In the two most recent sales of NBA teams, the Los Angeles Clippers sold for $2 billion and the Atlanta Hawks for $850 million.

“This is a lifelong dream come true,” said Fertitta, who will be the sole owner of one of the NBA’s elite teams. “Leslie Alexander has been one of the best owners in all of sports, and I thank him immensely for this opportunity. … I am overwhelmed with emotion to have this opportunity in my beloved city of Houston.”

The deal includes Clutch City Sports and Entertainment, which puts on shows and concerts at the Toyota Center.

Alexander announced the team was for sale in July. He became owner in 1993, and the Rockets won titles in 1994 and 1995 behind Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler. In 24 seasons under Alexander, the Rockets have won 57 percent of their games, fifth highest in the league.

The 60-year-old Fertitta owns the Landry’s restaurant chain and Golden Nugget casino and hotels. He was born in Galveston, Texas, and has lived in Houston his entire adult life. Fertitta is the chairman of the board of regents of the University of Houston System and star of the reality show “Billion Dollar Buyer” on CNBC.

“I am excited to welcome and pass the torch to Tilman,” Alexander said. “He is a Houstonian, business leader and committed to the success and excellence of the Rockets both on and off the basketball court. I have personally known Tilman for over 24 years and don’t think I could have found anyone more capable of continuing the winning tradition of our Houston Rockets.”

The 74-year-old Alexander says he wants to spend more time with family and work on his charitable projects.

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