CLEVELAND – Cavaliers owner Gordon Gund (search) is in "serious" negotiations to sell the NBA franchise, which has enjoyed a dramatic financial turnaround since the arrival of star LeBron James (search).
Gund, who for the past few years had denied interest in selling the Cavaliers, released a statement Thursday night in which he said he is currently involved in talks with a potential buyer.
"We are engaged in serious negotiations to sell the Cleveland Cavaliers (search) to a new principal owner," Gund said. "A potential buyer is presently verifying information about the Cavaliers. If matters go forward beyond this stage, we will enter into a formal contract subject to NBA approval."
Team spokesman Tad Carper said the team would have no further comment.
Citing unidentified sources, the New York Daily News reported that the club is on the verge of being sold to Dan Gilbert, a Michigan businessman, for $375 million. Gilbert is chief executive of Quicken Loans.
The potential sale is the latest in a number of NBA (search) ownership changes this year.
The New Jersey Nets were sold to Brooklyn developer Bruce Ratner in January for an estimated $300 million. A nine-man group headed by Boston businessman Steve Belkin bought the Atlanta Hawks for $250 million in March, and the Phoenix Suns were sold to San Diego banking executive Robert Sarver in June for $401 million.
The Cavaliers were among the worst teams in the league just two years ago. Their attendance dropped to 13,792 per game and there was little local interest as the club went through numerous coaching changes and three straight 50-loss seasons.
Things bottomed out in 2002-03 when the Cavs went 17-65 — the worst record in the club's 35-year history.
But the club's fortunes changed when it won the NBA lottery and the rights to draft James.
A year ago, the Cavaliers went 35-47 as James brought fans to Gund Arena, boosting attendance to 18,522 per game.
Along with his brother, George, Gund bought the Cavaliers in 1983 for $20 million from Ted Stepien. The brothers also owned the NHL's San Jose Sharks before selling that franchise in 2002.
Gund, who lives in New Jersey, was in Cleveland on Wednesday for organizational meetings.
During his years as owner, the Cavaliers were one of the Eastern Conference's top teams in the late 1980s and early '90s. But they only made it to the conference finals once, losing to Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in 1992.
In 1989, Jordan's last-second shot not only beat the heavily favored Cavaliers but raised his stature.
When rumors began to surface a few years ago that he was looking to sell the team, Gund maintained that he would listen to offers but was adamant that he wouldn't move the franchise.
In 1994, the Cavaliers moved from the Richfield Coliseum to a downtown arena bearing Gund's name.