"I don't want to trade him," the 85-year-old DeVos said of Howard, who is eligible to become a free agent at the end of the season.
DeVos unexpectedly addressed the media in the Magic locker room about an hour before Wednesday's game against the Miami Heat.
While players such as Jason Richardson and Daniel Orton went out of their way to greet DeVos, Howard did not acknowledge the wheelchair-bound owner upon entering the locker room or during DeVos' media session.
Howard has publicly requested a trade from Orlando.
"We like to think we're making headway," DeVos said of talks with Howard and his representatives. "But I don't know. He probably won't know until the end and I won't either."
When asked if he could put a percentage chance on Howard staying with the team long-term, DeVos said he wouldn't put a number on it.
"I don't gamble on that, I just plan on him staying," the owner said.
DeVos said that he talked to Howard recently, but that his son, Dan DeVos, was in charge of talks with Howard.
"You never give up," DeVos said of the negotiations. "We've got a great talent, a great young man. He's got to look at his options (and) what's best for him and I have to tell him what I think is best for him. I'm selfish."
DeVos said that regardless of the outcome, his opinion of Howard won't change.
"The respect for people is fundamental," DeVos said. "They have their interest where they want to go and they may or may not coincide with mine. Life goes on."
"That's a long time ago," DeVos said. "He's a great person and a wonderful guy. When you're young, you shop."
Howard, 26, is averaging 20.9 points and 15.1 rebounds and has been selected to start the All-Star Game, which is being held in Orlando in late February. Howard can become a free agent at the end of the season.
Tom Haberstroh covers the NBA for ESPN.com.