CHICAGO (Reuters) - The Golden State Warriors basketball team said on Monday it is for sale, beginning a process that could attract a record price and interest from overseas bidders, and from Silicon Valley billionaire executive Larry Ellison.
Galatioto Sports Partners President Sal Galatioto had no comment; but speculation has swirled for several months that Warriors owner Christopher Cohan might sell the team. Cohan bought the Warriors in 1995, and in 2004 sold a 20 percent stake for an undisclosed amount to a group of four investors.
Bankers and analysts who follow the sports industry said the Warriors could fetch a record price and draw interest from buyers overseas, including Asia. The Phoenix Suns were purchased in 2004 for a league-record $401 million.
"If a bidding war erupts, we could see this deal exceeding $400 million," said Marc Ganis, president of sports consulting firm Sportscorp Ltd. "Because of the potential size of the (Bay area) market it plays in, this is a team that has a lot of upside potential."
However, a sports banker, who asked not to be identified discussing an ongoing sale, said concerns that could dampen bidding include a possible work stoppage next year and the league's financial struggles.
"There's an opportunity to get a basketball team at a reasonable price, but there's a lot of risk," said the banker, who figured the team could attract bids of $350 million to $400 million. "The NBA needs some fixing."
NBA Commissioner David Stern said last month the league could lose around $400 million this year due to the weak economy and a crippling labor agreement with its players.
The NBA's current labor deal runs through the 2010-2011 season, and the owners want to reduce the players' share of basketball-related income, pointing to a possible lockout by the owners or a strike by the players.
"I'm trying. I'm trying. Unfortunately, you cannot have a hostile takeover in basketball," Ellison said when asked by a fan whether he would buy the Warriors, which play home games at Oracle Arena.
An Oracle spokeswoman declined to comment.
Forbes magazine estimated this month that Ellison, who co-founded Oracle, is the world's sixth-richest man, worth about $28 billion. In February, Ellison, an accomplished ocean racer, won the America's Cup sailing race.
The magazine in December estimated the Warriors were worth $315 million, down 6 percent from the prior year's list and ranking 18th out of 30 teams.
The Warriors also could attract overseas interest. Chinese investors in December agreed to buy a stake in the Cleveland Cavaliers, while Russia's richest man Mikhail Prokhorov reached a deal last September to buy control of the New Jersey Nets. Both deals still need league approval.