‘The Right Mix’

Transfer of Pistons to Gores will be good news for fans, CEO says
The last time a self-made businessman in the prime of his life bought the Pistons, it worked out pretty well for all concerned. Bill Davidson was 52 when he struck a handshake deal on a Florida beach with Fred Zollner in 1974, and his stewardship of the franchise that Zollner brought to Detroit 17 years earlier produced three NBA titles and elevated the Pistons to elite status.

Pistons owners tend to sink roots and stick around. With Friday’s news that Mr. D’s widow, Karen Davidson, and Tom Gores, 46, have struck a deal – pending the NBA’s expected formal approval – the Pistons are poised to have just the third owner in the 54 years of their existence in Detroit.

It will be a matter of weeks or perhaps a few more months until the deal officially closes – it will be finished no later than June 30, the sides announced in their joint statement – and Gores can begin to leave his imprint on the organization. But the early indications are that it will be run in a manner that will energize Pistons fans.

“If you’re a fan, this is a wonderful thing,” Palace CEO and president Alan Ostfield said Friday. “You want an owner who is committed to the community, committed to the team, who is going to put a winning product on the court, who is going to facilitate a very solid and successful business. And Tom Gores is all of those things.”

Davidson took a flagging family business and turned it into a dominant player in the world of glass manufacturing with plants across North and South America, Europe and Asia. Gores launched his own private equity firm in the mid-’90s and quickly established it as an industry leader. Both have been consistently portrayed as leaders who come to know their businesses intimately while surrounding themselves with the best and brightest and empowering them to do their jobs.

Ostfield was a huge admirer of Davidson’s and has been nothing but impressed with the Gores team since their paths first crossed last summer.

“The one thing I’ve learned from the people I’ve dealt with in his office is that they want a very successful business that enables a very successful product on the floor,” he said. “From our perspective as businesspeople – as people who bleed Pistons red, white and blue, as people who want the exact same thing he describes – it’s music to our ears.

“These guys have really liked what they’ve seen from this business in the past year and how the organization has weathered the storm we’ve all had to deal with. They are very detail oriented. They like to see good business decisions. The reason fans should like that is those things naturally lead to good decisions – to winning business and winning basketball teams. At the end of the day, those are the things fans care about.”

While the evidence from the start of the process that began more than a year ago when Karen Davidson made public her intention to explore the process of selling the team has pointed overwhelmingly to the Pistons remaining a Detroit team, fans have continued to wonder if leaving Michigan was a possibility once the team changed hands.

“Only Tom can speak to that,” Ostfield said. “What I can say is I believe he and his team are committed to this organization and to this community. Tom is a Michigan guy. He has businesses here in Michigan. He has family here in Michigan. He has a home in Michigan. He is competitive. He wants to win. He certainly wants to have a successful team. Obviously, he’s a very successful business guy.

“So he is the right mix. He is everything, I believe, that fans should want, that sponsors should want, that the media should want and that the people who work here should want.”