Ilitch in talks to buy Detroit Pistons: reports

DETROIT (Reuters) - The owner of the Little Caesars Pizza chain and Detroit's baseball and ice hockey teams has opened negotiations to buy the Detroit Pistons basketball team, according to two reports.

The Detroit Free Press, citing an unidentified source, and Crain's Detroit Business said on Tuesday that Karen Davidson is in talks to sell the National Basketball Association team to Mike Ilitch and a deal is expected within 30 days.

A spokesman for the Pistons declined to comment and Ilitch spokeswoman Jennifer Haselhuhn said the Ilitch family had signed a nondisclosure agreement that bars discussion of their bid.

Ilitch, who owns the Detroit Tigers baseball team and Detroit Red Wings hockey team, said in August that he wanted to buy the Pistons, confirming speculation that had raged since the basketball team's longtime owner died last year.

William Davidson, who owned the Pistons since 1974, died last year at 86. His wife Karen said in January she would sell the club and its arena.

Forbes magazine valued the Pistons, which play in Auburn Hills, Michigan, as the NBA's fourth-most-valuable team at $479 million in December, and the Ilitch family's fortune at $1.5 billion in March.

One banker previously had estimated that the team and related assets would sell for between $350 million and $375 million.

Many analysts think Ilitch would move the Pistons to downtown Detroit, where his other teams play. Ilitch has said in the past that he wants to build a new arena downtown for his hockey team, and adding the NBA team as a co-tenant would make fiscal sense.

Ilitch and his wife Marian bought the Red Wings in 1982, turning a struggling team then derided as the "Dead Wings" into a four-time Stanley Cup champion. Five years later, they bought and restored the run-down Fox Theater in downtown Detroit.

Ilitch, who played three years in the Tigers' minor league system after serving four years in the U.S. Marines, bought the baseball team in 1992 and moved it to a new ballpark in 2000.

Ilitch's wife bought a stake in MotorCity Casino in 1999 and became its sole owner in 2005.

The Ilitch companies' combined revenue in 2009 was $2.1 billion.

(Reporting by Ben Klayman in Detroit, editing by Gerald E. McCormick)