Where new starts are made
New Grizzlies Chairman Robert Pera was introduced to a crowd filled with fans, media and several of the team’s ownership group in the Grand Lobby of FedExForum the morning of the team’s home opener against the Utah Jazz. The founder and CEO of Ubiquiti Networks may only be 34 years old, but owning a basketball team has always been a dream of his – one that he finally accomplished.
“My dream was always to be involved in the NBA and potentially be an owner, and once I was in a position I started looking at teams,” said Pera. “And you know, Memphis was interesting to me, because first of all the Grizzlies are one of my favorite teams, if not my top 2 or 3 favorite team in the league, even before we started the process. And then once I got here, there’s just something about the stadium. It’s just awesome being inside here. And once I started learning about the history of Memphis and how the team is a part of the community, it kind of struck me and what I like to do.”
What Pera likes to do is compete and he has done that very well, creating his own company in 2005 after working for Apple as a hardware engineer. The University of California, San Diego graduate believes there are three ways a team can be competitive both on and off the court.
“I look at kind of a successful NBA team in a few different ways,” Pera explained. “First of all, as a win-loss (record), right? You want to compete for a championship and put together as winning of a team as possible. The next thing is entertainment; you go to NBA games because you want to see incredible athletes do incredible things that people can only dream about doing in their minds. I think putting an exciting team on the floor and an exciting brand and exciting market around the product is what we’re passionate about. The third thing I’ve talked about before is I think it’s really cool is if you can improve on the community. If you can get involved in the school system, if you could inspire younger kids and inspire and make a difference and change their lives I think those are great feelings I like to be involved in. Those three things are the goals to improve upon with the team right now moving forward.”
To help achieve those three goals, Pera named seasoned sports executive Jason Levien as the new Chief Executive Officer and Managing Partner of Memphis Basketball, LLC, which operates the Memphis Grizzlies and FedExForum.
“Jason and I share a vision for building a world-class team on and off-the-court,” said Pera. “He has my complete trust, confidence and support in how best to lead our organization's efforts."
NBA Commissioner David Stern believes Levien’s background in the sports industry will bring a lot to the Grizzlies front office and to the City of Memphis.
“Jason (Levien) welcome to the NBA,” said Commissioner Stern in a press conference prior to the game against the Jazz. “It’s about management and how well management goes. Both managing your roster and managing your business. That’s the good news for Memphis because as we seem to promote all of our cities, Memphis is going to be on some television set some place a minimum of 82 times a year plus exhibitions, plus playoffs and it’s going to be in some part of 215 countries and 46 languages, countries and territories. And this is a team that has started to work very hard through the Grizzlies Foundation and its players to be in the community, in schools, in St. Jude and a whole variety of things. Things are looking good in Memphis.”
Commissioner Stern described the Grizzlies Pera as a “basketball junkie” and a smart businessman. While both Pera and Levien will bring a lot to the business operations of the Grizzlies, the two are also passionate for the team on the court and both believe the future looks bright for the Bluff City.
“We’re not going to limit ourselves to being a small market team and we think we can compete with everybody,” Levien discussed during the press conference. “We think that the way the rules have been set up now, gives us that opportunity. We want to be the best. We want to consistently be the best and we are going to strive for that every day.
And we’re going to try to out think and out work and out-hustle people to do that. We have 30 teams, 29 competitors. We’re going to be constantly thinking of how we can improve our organization and how do we improve our opportunities to be successful.”
Pera and Levien announced the roster of partners during the press conference that has been assembled to lead the team into an exciting new era in its history.
“We have one of the most dynamic ownership groups in professional sports,” said Levien. “We expect that its members will play a meaningful, ongoing role in realizing the goals we have set for the team and for ourselves, both on and off the court.”
Joining Pera and Levien in the ownership group are Grizzlies Vice Chairman Steve Kaplan, Staley Cates, Pace Cooper, Edward Dobbs, Steve Ehrhart, Harold Ford, Jr., Al Gossett, the Hand Family, Paul Harless, Pitt Hyde, Ashley Manning, Joseph Nicosia, Billy Orgel, Elliot Perry, Bill Rhodes, Michael Savit, Justin Timberlake, Mike Wharton, Duncan Williams and the Wilson Brothers.
“This ownership group will take the Grizzlies to the next level,” said Edward J. Dobbs, CEO of Memphis-based Dobbs Management Service. “Our team is going to thrive in Memphis for a long time.”
By adding local ownership, Pera and Levien are fully committed to the community and the Memphis Grizzlies.
“Robert and I have a real commitment to Memphis,” Levien said. “We have a commitment to making this team work in Memphis and to being an initial part of the fabric in the community.”
“Memphis is a city that is unbelievable,” Pera added. “The people have been great. I can tell the community is really special. With both of those things combined, I consider myself very, very fortunate.”