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Grizzlies Losing Money

October 31, 2000

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) _ The Vancouver Grizzlies will ``set a record″ for losing money this year, and new owner Michael Heisley said he can’t tolerate that kind of cash drain too much longer.

``We’re going to lose a lot of money, there’s no question about that,″ Heisley said Tuesday before the Grizzlies opened their sixth NBA season against the Seattle SuperSonics.

``I think I will set a record,″ the Chicago billionaire said when asked how much money the team will lose in his first year of ownership. ``It’s a lot more than you think it is.″

It is estimated the Grizzlies lost $25 million last year, and the team could lose twice that amount this season.

Heisley paid $160 million to buy the Grizzlies from Seattle businessman John McCaw last year. Heisley has a history of buying under-performing companies and turning them into profitable operations, but said he will reconsider owning the Grizzlies if the financial losses continue.

``I’m not going to sit here and eat double-digit millions of dollars for a long period of time, I’ll tell you that,″ Heisley said. ``If people don’t think I wouldn’t like to make this a success in Vancouver, then they are idiots. More than anything I can almost think of in my business career, I would like to make this a success. But when I get to the point where facts are staring me in the face, and I’m not going to be able to do it, then I’m going to have to face up to that.″

Heisley did not say how long he’s willing to suffer financial losses.

``The situation has nothing to do with how many millions or how much time,″ he said. ``It becomes a question of when you get to the point where you say `I can’t make it, it’s not going to turn round.‴

Heisley would have several options should he decide basketball isn’t profitable in Vancouver. The most likely scenario would be moving the team to a U.S. city like St. Louis, New Orleans or Nashville, Tenn.

The Grizzlies’ average attendance slipped to 13,000 last year from 16,000 in their 19,193-seat arena. The team managed to sell around 5,000 season tickets for this year.

While Heisley would like to see GM Place sold out for every Grizzlies game, attendance alone won’t pay the bills. He said the team’s needs include increased TV revenues and more corporate advertising.

``We couldn’t break even if we sold out every seat in the house,″ he said. ``When I came here, I said I can’t do it by myself. I’m putting a lot of money into this thing and quite frankly it’s going to depend on whether or not we can galvanize the business community and the fans to see whether or not it’s a success.″

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