Joshua Kushner is a mainstay of the New York tech scene, founding the investment firm Thrive Capital, which has $2.5 billion under management, and cofounding Oscar Health, a health start-up. He was brought into the Grizzlies ownership group by Pera, who is also part of the New York tech scene. The deal stemmed from an unusual arrangement Pera had with previous limited partners of the Grizzlies.
Pera agreed to purchase the Memphis Grizzlies from Michael Heisley in June 2012 for $377 million. Pera was 34, and made his wealth as the founder of Ubiquiti Networks, a New York-based wireless technology company. He founded Ubiquiti in 2005, and took it public in 2011.
But Pera, despite holding a controlling interest in the Grizzlies, purchased only about 25 percent of the franchise and put up just $45 million of his own money, according to The Memphis Flyer. Pera put together a large ownership group to pay for the rest. Steve Kaplan, a Los Angeles investor, and Daniel Straus, the founder of multiple health care companies, each bought a stake worth roughly 14 percent, while a consortium of more than 20 local investors bought the rest.
The agreement between Pera, Kaplan and Straus included an unusual buy-sell clause that allowed both Kaplan and Straus to exercise a right to purchase control of the team after five years. Once exercised, one or both of the limited partners could set a new valuation for the franchise. At that price, Pera had to either buy their shares or sell them his.
In November 2017, both Kaplan and Straus triggered the clause. After negotiations between the three were unsuccessful, Pera announced in April 2018 that he would retain his majority ownership. ESPN reported he had bought his former partners out at a $1.3 billion to $1.4 billion valuation of the franchise.
That meant Pera was forced to raise roughly $375 million — about the same amount the entire team was valued at in 2012 — to purchase the Straus and Kaplan shares. It seems he brought on minority investors to help shoulder that financial commitment.
The Grizzlies have slumped to a record of 29-42 after a promising start and will miss the N.B.A. playoffs for the second consecutive season. In February, Memphis traded its former All-Star center Marc Gasol to Toronto and is widely expected to trade the last remaining link to the club’s playoff successes — Mike Conley — in the off-season.