Originally created 01/25/00

Chicago billionaire buys NBA Grizzlies



VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- A Chicago-based billionaire who made his fortune buying and rebuilding struggling companies may face his biggest challenge with his latest purchase -- the struggling Vancouver Grizzlies.

Michael Heisley stepped into the void left by Bill Laurie's recent exit, purchasing the Grizzlies on Monday. BCTV, citing an unidentified source, said the sale was for $160 million.

The deal still needs NBA approval, although Heisley has two things in his favor.

He is intent on keeping the franchise in Vancouver, something Laurie wasn't prepared to do. And Heisley has already held discussions with NBA commissioner David Stern, who suggested the Grizzlies would be a good fit for him.

At a hastily called news conference at GM Place, Heisley was quick to assure Vancouver and Grizzlies fans that he intends to make the team a winner both on and off the court in the city.

Laurie officially exited the picture Friday when he agreed to pay $12 million to cancel his sale agreement with Orca Bay.

Heisley, 62, is chief executive officer of the Chicago-based The Heico Companies, whose holdings last year were estimated to be worth $1.5 billion. Heico, founded in 1979, is made up of about 30 companies covering a diverse set of industries, from making pre-engineered metal buildings to telecommunications and food production.