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Grizzlies get youthful boost from new owner

Wed., Nov. 7, 2012

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Mike Conley says the Grizzlies’ new owner doesn’t look much older than he is. The Memphis guard is right.

Robert J. Pera, the Grizzlies’ new chairman and majority owner, is only nine years older than his point guard. The 34-year-old California businessman is a fresh face from a much different generation than the Grizzlies’ previous owner – 75-year-old billionaire Michael Heisley.

“I like it,” Pera said of being called an NBA owner. “It has a nice ring to it.”

He became one of the youngest owners of a major professional sports team when he paid $377 million for the team.

Mark Cuban was 41 when he bought the Dallas Mavericks in 2000, and Eddie DeBartolo became the youngest NFL owner when he took over the San Francisco 49ers at 30, according to STATS LLC.

Pera may be young, but NBA commissioner David Stern said Monday night the league’s newest owner has the three things he looks for: passion, deep pockets and knowing how to delegate and hire top management.

Pera, who grew up in San Carlos, Calif., had his own computer services company by the time he was 16. He has degrees in Japanese and electrical engineering along with a master’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of California-San Diego and worked at Apple as an engineer.

The Grizzlies haven’t had much time to get to know Pera, whose purchase was finalized last week. He spoke to them before Monday night’s home opener, and forward Rudy Gay liked what he heard.

“He didn’t say much,” Gay said of Pera. “My kind of guy.”

What plans Pera and his close friend Jason Levien, the new chief executive officer and managing partner in charge of the Grizzlies, have for the actual roster remain to be seen. They’ve been consumed the past few months with meeting the NBA’s exhaustive vetting for buying a team, and now they can start the work of running the Grizzlies.

“I don’t think it’s too far off,” Pera said. “It’s going to take a couple smart moves, and I think we could be very competitive.”

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