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Rockets CEO Tad Brown: The team could sell to a Chinese buyer, even if it’s not Yao Ming

So who’s coughing up the cash?

NFL: Super Bowl LI-New England Patriots vs Atlanta Falcons Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

With the pending sale of the Houston Rockets being the league’s worst-kept secret, CEO Tad Brown is making his media rounds.

Last week, he was on the Bloomberg News Business of Sports podcast speaking with Michael Barr and Scott Soshnick for a 25-minute conversation, giving listeners some insight on just how complex something of this nature really is. As Ethan and Darren told us here and here, this is a sale unlike any other.

“There hasn’t been a franchise in sports, that was put up for sale at its zenith, maybe ever,” Brown said on the podcast.

In a nutshell, the Rockets will fetch a BOATLOAD of cash whenever a sale goes down. Since Leslie took over the team in ‘93, the Rockets:

  • Have the second-most wins in the past decade
  • Are the fifth-winningest franchise in the NBA
  • Are in the fastest-growing major media market in the country
  • Have become the No. 1 team in China

Throw in the fact that Houston has two superstars, the reigning Coach of the Year and Sixth Man of the Year, and that the Rockets are in prime position to compete now, whoever ends up taking over the team will have to come off of a lot of dolla bills.

On average, 15-20 people are in contact with the front office a day, Brown said, expressing varying levels of interest in buying the Rockets. To some of us that could only come up with people like Mattress Mack and Tilman Fertitta as possibilities, that is crazy to even think about. In the next three to six weeks, Tad Brown and his team will engage in initial vetting processes, learning of buyers’ financial standings and other nuances.

Then, they will begin the trimming process, narrowing the wide field of applicants to true buyers who would be the best fit with the city, the players and their value proposition. Alexander is in no rush; he wants to do this right way for Houston, the fans and the franchise.

Touching on global impact, perhaps the most intriguing part of the episode is when Tad Brown went into depth on the Chinese market.

One of the reasons the Rockets won’t go for the $550 to $800 million range the Bucks and Hawks sold for, other than that Steve Ballmer set the market at $2 billion, is because of the Rockets’ influence in China. This is where Houston reigns supreme.

From first showing an NBA Finals game there, to preseason matches, to drafting Yao Ming and the numerous corporate partners with operations in the Far East, it’s easy to see why this is a unique fanbase and franchise. Yao and Brown are very good friends, and when he called the Rockets the day after the initial press conference, it was from a place of love. Yao understands the significance of the sale, and how meticulous the process is.

Contrary to rumors, Brown said Yao won’t necessarily be buying the team, but he has ideas and Chinese businessmen he’s in contact with, who are very interested in acquiring the Rockets. And as the czar of the Chinese Basketball Association, his reach in the game overseas extends farther than any Great Wall.