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Jerry Colangelo speak on sale of Phoenix Suns





/ April 16, 2004

The Phoenix Suns are being sold. Current team chairman and CEO Jerry Colangeo and other key pieces to the puzzle clarified what's happening. Here on you've got the complete transcript.

JERRY COLANGELO: Okay, why are we here is the real question? First of all, thanks for coming. This was a little bit premature in terms of a press conference in the sense that we were hoping to have a little bit more time to put some pieces together and have this press conference a week from now, in fact, a week from today was the original target date. Sometimes things move faster than you expect and as a result, I thought it was appropriate to move that up on the timetable, and tell you where we are.

So I come before you today with pretty significant information and an announcement. I have come to an agreement with the gentleman to my right, Robert Sarver, a native Arizonan born and raised in Tucson, a Suns fan as a young man. He told me some stories about going to the old (Veterans Memorial) Coliseum and some of the experiences he had. Iíll get into that in just a moment.

Let me just set the table, if I may, because thereís been a lot of speculation based on comments that I made some time ago about where I was as a 64-year-old guy thinking about my family and estate planning, and the future. Iíve told the story that I came here in 1968 and I was the young kid on the block. Twenty-eight years old, I was the youngest G.M. in history of pro sports and so on and so forth. The next day I woke up and I was in my mid-40s. Then I woke up another day and I was in my 60s. And for certain, I came to the conclusion that thereís more days behind than in front of me. It led me to start thinking about a lot of plans. Not that I hadnít done it, but it just accelerated what I felt was important. That led me to conclude that it was time for me to think about passing the torch. It was time to put something in transition. Not that I was personally, necessarily, walk, because I feel at 64 I still have a lot to offer.

So I retained the Lehman Brothers. A good friend of mine, Sal Delatino, whoís had tremendous experience negotiating deals in professional sports, including the Anaheim Angels in baseball recently and the New Jersey Nets most recently. As a result we started to field some inquiries because we prepared a book. And we went to market with the intent originally that I was looking for an equity partner, someone that would come in and learn the business, share the business for a period of time, and then I would transition out. Knowing full well that once you hit the market place, you could very well be faced with the situation where you needed to consider the whole deal rather than an equity partner the way I described it. Thatís exactly what happened and it happened quickly. We had two term sheets that I looked at and made a decision on, and it was to go with Robert for a number of reasons. I was impressed with his enthusiasm, his intelligence, his track record, the fact that heís an Arizonan with Arizona roots and he bought into my philosophy about community and charitable giving, and recognized what the Suns franchise has meant to this community for three and a half decades.

As a bonus, along came Steve Kerr, one of our old draft picks. Heíll remind you that we traded him. I would remind him that we got him off and running. We got him started in the NBA and he did a tremendous job as a player, and itís exciting to have him as a part of whatís going to be announced here today.

You all know the history. The Suns have the fifth-best record in the history of the league. We have a tremendous reputation in the NBA. Weíve been a big part of the growth of the NBA for these three and a half decades. Nothing really changes here. Basically, things are going to continue with the same management team. We will have a management committee. This transaction is on terms, in the sense that a large percentage of the sales price is paid upon closing, expected to be June 30 and the second payment in three years. Iím staying on as Chairman and CEO for three years and beyond that as Chairman. I donít have any intent of not being associated with this franchise that has been such a big part of my life.

There are a lot of people that need to be talked about here. Our organization, our players, the management team, the city of Phoenix, who has been a great partner of ours in building this arena and serving as a terrific partner, our sponsors, our advertisers. Weíre just going to take this, hopefully, to another level in terms of productivity and I think this franchise is poised to take that next level. It was painstaking this year to do the things we had to do to put ourselves financially in a position to move forward, but we bit the bullet and we did that, and I think weíll see the fruits of that as we go forward.

So this is really a very positive day today. Itís an exciting day. I had some things in mind when I set out on this road, this journey and it goes way beyond a price. Yes, this is the highest price ever paid for an NBA franchise. Itís $400 million. But thereís a lot more to it. Legacy, youíve heard me use that term. Thatís important to me. Transition, thatís important. You need to be weaned off things from time to time. This would be one of them for me. Community. I said that earlier, but itís important. I donít believe anythingís going to change. I have that kind of confidence.

At this time, Iíd like to introduce Robert Sarver, who is going to be the leading investor of a group that he puts together and is putting together. Iím sure he has a few things to say. Robert?

MAJOR INVESTOR AND MANAGING PARTNER OF NEW OWNERSHIP GROUP ROBERT SARVER: Thank you. Let me first start by thanking you, Jerry, for having the confidence in me to have the opportunity, which is a once in a lifetime opportunity for me to be a part of this organization. I want to thank you for your confidence in me.

I guess second most, Iím going to thank my mom, whoís sitting there, for giving me the guidance and direction and support over the last 20 years of my career that enabled me to get into a position financially that I could be today to have a chance to execute on a dream that I think most kids have when theyíre growing up, to be a part of professional sports. Iíve been a basketball fan my whole life, born and raised in Tucson, lived 35 years in Tucson and Phoenix. I started out as a player, thinking someday when youíre shooting baskets in your yard that youíll be able to play professional basketball, but unfortunately when your short and slow and canít jump, unless your nameís Steve Kerr, thatís a little bit challenging.

This opportunity to be an owner of a team is just incredible. Iím a little overwhelmed by it. Iím a little overwhelmed by everybody here, too. Iíve done a lot of banking and real estate deals of this magnitude, but it doesnít seem to interest the press quite as much as this transaction has.

A couple of things really attracted me to this opportunity. One is itís in Phoenix. I still consider myself an Arizonan. I have significant business interests here in the Valley and in Tucson. I have significant charitable interests in both cities and my heart is in Arizona. Any time you look at buying a business, especially one you really donít know a whole lot about Ė Iím being honest about that Ė youíve got to look for management. The management of this organization is spectacular and it starts at the top with Jerry. I was at a meeting of a committee of the board of governors two days ago in New York and the amount of respect that his fellow peers have, and look to him for guidance, there probably isnít a better person to teach me this business over the next three to five years than Jerry Colangelo. So, we have a great management team in place from top to bottom. Our structure is going to be basically a partnership thatís going to own the team. I will be the largest individual investor in that partnership but there will be a managing corporation thatís going to be the manager of the partnership and that management team is going to be owned by myself, Steve and Bryan. Theyíve got the youth and expertise and I think really along with the rest of the team we have here, is going to produce some real good results going forward.

I donít know a lot about basketball. Iím learning really quickly and Iím going to learn more, but I am competitive and I try to win at everything I do. One thing I can admit to everybody here is that I will put everything Iíve got into trying to bring something that the city of Phoenix can continue to be proud of and to build on the legacy that Jerryís created.

With that, Iím sure youíre going to have a lot of other questions, but let me maybe turn it over to Steve and to Bryan. Bryan, why donít you spend a few minutes and tell everybody what we have going on, as far as the arena and some of the changes, and the experience that weíre going to see next year in terms of coming to a Phoenix Suns basketball game.

SUNS PRESIDENT AND GENERAL MANAGER BRYAN COLANGELO: First of all, thank you everyone for coming today. This has obviously been a pretty emotional process for Jerry and Iíve been honored to be a part of the whole process. Not only watching this thing grow up, literally as I was growing up, but to be mentored by someone who has that respect by his peers in the league and the people in this community. Itís obviously provided me with a great foundation to carry forward. Heís obviously got some pretty big shoes to fill and Iíll continue to do my best to live up to whatever expectations those are.

But with respect to the excitement of what we have here, in terms of the management team thatís in place. First basketball-wise, Steve Kerr and I have spent a lot of time over the last two weeks talking about basketball, talking about the production of the team, talking about the flexibility that has been created in the past year by making some pretty hard transactions as Jerry mentioned. Weíve put ourselves in a position where weíre very much poised to make a big impact here in a very short amount of time.

Itís interesting, but you look at some of the teams that are in the playoffs and to be labeled a bad team in the West is to be a fairly good team in the East right now. If you look at the teams even in the West that are in the playoffs in the thick of things, the Memphis Grizzlies, who we played recently, and the Denver Nuggets, our basketball staff feels that weíre not far behind, if not right there with them or ahead of them. A key piece here and a key piece there, whether itís a high draft selection this year or the ability to add a key piece through free agency, we think weíre going to be right there in the thick of things in this race in the NBA.

But just to spend the time with Steve and to see that philosophically weíre on the same page in so many ways in talking about the governance of this team and the direction to go with some of the free-agent dollars that weíve got available. Iíve admired Steve, not only throughout his career as a player, but even in his analysis on Turner Broadcasting. To hear the basketball intelligence that he brings to the table, itís going to make all of us in this process that much better. And I do for the record want to say that I had nothing to do with trading Steve Kerr. Thatís just for the record.

Weíre very thrilled with where we are basketball-wise. This year we saw the emergence of a young player, Joe Johnson, break out of a shell and get the opportunity to showcase his skills. Amarť Stoudemireís taken another step towards stardom in this league. Weíve added a couple of young pieces in (Leando) Barbosa and (Zarko) Cabarkapa. You got just a little taste of what theyíre capable of doing. And of course we had Shawn Marion, who we locked up with a contract extension a couple of years ago. Thatís the core of this team as we move forward. But youíve got so many young and improving parts. Casey Jacobsen, Maciej Lampe whoís a piece for the future, Jake Voskuhl, who made great strides until he was set back by injury this year.

Weíve got a very nice young team and weíre going to continue to try to build with that. And again, thatís just from a basketball perspective. Weíre very thrilled and excited about where we are and do not think weíre very far away.

As far as the arena, itís been well documented but there are so many positive things. This new ownership group is coming into a situation where everything is going to be pretty much complete from a building standpoint. A $70 million renovation is in its final stages of completion. And on November 1 when people walk into this building, theyíre going to walk through a brand new grand entrance on the northwest corner of the plaza area, which Iím sure weíll soon have the naming rights to it. Weíve got the east side of the building, which has expanded into whatís known as the ďBud Light Paseo.Ē Itís a great opportunity for people to interact with a lot of the new cultural things happening in downtown.

Youíve got the expansion and refurbishment of the Civic Plaza. Youíve got obviously great retail and entertainment opportunities that we continue to discuss on the east side. The Suns Mercantile building, or the Phoenix Suns Athletic Club, which is currently in use for our particular reasons is going to be soon a museum. Details will soon be announced on that. Itís an exciting and entertaining thing for this to become one more destination place.

There are so many things happening that weíre thrilled to have this. Inside the bowl, youíre going to walk into the building and see an entirely new LED component to the signage opportunities that we present to sponsors. So rather than the old traditional signs, youíre going to see state-of-the-art LED technology. And weíre going to have a center-hung scoreboard possibly with the highest technology and video boards that are available.

So everything from a standpoint of this building being ready and primed for the entertainment that weíre going to follow through with basketball-wise, itís a great opportunity for us as a group to lead this thing forward. I know that Robert was impressed with the management team. Heís not talking about just basketball; heís talking about the people involved, the lawyers, and financial people, (Executive Vice President, Finance and Administration) Jim Pitman, (Senior Vice President, General Counsel) Tom OíMalley; obviously (President and COO) Rick Welts who heads the business operations for us; (General Manager, Sports and Entertainment Services) Paige Peterson who head the arena operations. Itís just been great to see those individuals interact with Robert and his team as weíve gotten this deal accomplished. I must say also in very short, the one thing Iíve notice about Robert is he is a go-getter and he gets it done very quickly. So thatís the summary and where things are and Iíll give it back to Robert.

SARVER: Let me say how Iím aligned with the fellow to my right, Steve Kerr. It just really goes back to what Jerry said and fits into what has really been the legacy of this team, and thatís integrity, quality and knowledge of basketball. Steve combines all of that, along with some deep roots in Arizona and I think makes him a very, very valuable asset to our organization. Steve, you want to say a few words about the transaction?

MEMBER OF THE NEW OWNERSHIP GROUP STEVE KERR: Sure. First of all, Iíd like to thank Jerry for inviting me to be a part of this. This is very exciting for me. But, more than that, to really get me started in the NBA. He drafted me in 1988 when nobody else was going to and I think he did it Ė he wouldnít tell me this Ė but he did this as a favor to the University of Arizona, to the fans in Tucson. I donít think he or anyone else envisioned I would play in the NBA for 15 years. But he gave me the start and Iíve talked with Cotton Fitzsimmons about this many times, and Iíve always been grateful to Cotton and to Jerry for allowing me that opportunity.

Itís wonderful to be back here in that capacity. Itís amazing, really. Iím kind of in shock. This sort of goes along the lines of the rest of my career. The whole thing has rather been shocking, to be honest with you. I never expected to play for as long as I did. I never expected to play with the teams that I did. Iíve often said that I rode the coattails of Michael Jordan and David Robinson and Tim Duncan, and now here I am riding the coattails of Robert Sarver, so I certainly am grateful for that.

Iíll share the story of how this came about because Iím sure a lot of you are wondering exactly why Iím up here. Lute Olson is a friend of Robertís and friend of mine, obviously. Lute called me several months ago and he asked if I would help Robert. He said that Robert was interested in possibly owning an NBA franchise and would I help him. I sort of chuckled and I said, ďYeah, Iíd like to be President of the United States, too. I donít think itís going to happen.Ē I just laughed, but I thought itís a friend of Luteís so Iíd be glad to help. I set up a few meetings, opened a few doors and somehow this all evolved in a shockingly fast rate. It speaks volumes about Robertís intelligence, his business sense, his determination and just his personality, that weíre sitting here today. This all happened very quickly, but you can see that Jerry and Bryan are very comfortable with Robert, and weíve all grown very comfortable together and Iím really excited to be a part of this.

Iíve spent the last two weeks getting to know Bryan and Iím very excited to be a part of his management team, to be assisting him. Iím sure there will be questions about my role. I will continue with my broadcasting career with Turner Sports. Itís something that I enjoy very much.

I think my role with the Suns will be one of an advisor, part of the management committee, part of the decision-making process. I will certainly have plenty to say on personnel decisions. I feel like Iím in a great spot to do so, having played in the NBA for the last 15 years and having seen just about every team in the league up close this year. So Iím going to certainly offer any expertise that I can for Bryan. With that said, this is his show. Heís the general manager of this team. And I know Ė he and I have discussed this at length Ė there will be plenty of rumors about my role and his role. I just want to let it be known that he and I are very comfortable working with each other. There may be rumors as we go forth as to whoís in what role. My role, as Iíve said, is part of the managing committee, a confidante, a part of the general consensus that Bryan will build when we get forth to draft day and free agent signing periods.

Iím excited to be a part of this group here and Iím thrilled to be going forward with Bryan, and I look forward to working with him, and (Head Coach) Mike (DíAntoni) and his staff, and the entire basketball operations here with the Phoenix Suns. Thank you very much.

JERRY COLANGELO: Let me just add a couple of things that are important. There are some consents that are still required to make this transaction official. One would be the partnersí consent. We have a limited partnership. It takes a 51 percent vote of the limited partners to approve a sale of this franchise. So that is the intent that we will be making that proposal, although all have received the information, the term sheet. That meeting is set for next Friday, at which time the official vote is taken.

Number two, there is a consent from the part of the NBA. Robert mentioned being in New York and going before the advisory finance committee. That was the first step, to make that proposal to them, identify a face with the name, understand the terms of the deal, etc. That went extremely well and yet the league has to approve such a transaction. I think it all fits within this 45-60 days that weíre talking about and a close on June 30.

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