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Pistons Sale: NBA Denies Report Of Negotiations With Middle East Groups; Tom Gores Now The Leading Bidder?

A month ago, the Pistons sale was moving toward completion and it appeared as though Mike Ilitch would be in place as the team's owner by this time. NBA commissioner David Stern was hoping for the sale to be done by the end of November, and early in the month Ilitch actually said that they were getting close.

Shortly after Ilitch's comments, however, reports came out that the exclusive bidding period had ended and negotiations for the team had been reopened to everybody. Although the leak of this information could have been viewed as a negotiating ploy to counter Ilitch's reported lowering of his bid, there hadn't been any update on the sale in weeks before Thursday.

On Thursday, The National, a paper in the United Arab Emirates, reported that "investment groups in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Qatar are in separate discussions to buy the Detroit Pistons." The report attributed this news to Stern, who allegedly said negotiations are "ongoing" for groups in the Middle East to potentially purchase the team.

"The interest and discussions have taken place in reference to Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Qatar. There is more than one discussion," Mr Stern said.

"That is a team that has been, and is having negotiations with different potential investors," he added, declining to name the parties involved.

Shortly after this came out, the NBA released a statement refuting The National's report despite the fact that it was based on comments made by Stern.

"There has been interest in league franchises from various investors in Qatar, Abu Dhabi and Dubai, but (the NBA refutes) a report that specific negotiations are ongoing for a potential sale of the Pistons to a group from the Middle East."

At the very least, this statement from the NBA confirms that the Pistons have drawn interest from investment groups in the Middle East, which had been reported in the summer. What does this mean for the sale now? Well, talking with groups from the Middle East could easily just be part of the process of driving the value of the franchise up before the sale is complete, but it also could be another sign that Karen Davidson and Ilitch aren't really all that close to making a deal happen. More evidence of the latter comes from The Detroit News, which reports that Tom Gores is in the lead as far as the bidding goes. Gores has maintained his interest in buying the team throughout the past months and again reaffirmed his hope of purchasing the team via a spokeswoman.