CLEVELAND -- Dan Gilbert's ambition and love of sports has
him on the brink of a lifelong pursuit: owning a professional team.
That same passion once got him trouble.
Gilbert, founder of the nation's largest online mortgage
company, bought the Cleveland Cavaliers for $375 million on Monday
from owner Gordon Gund, inheriting a team that is soaring to new
heights in the NBA with LeBron James.
"It's been a long, long dream," said Gilbert, founder of
Quicken Loans. "I'm definitely pinching myself. This is something
I've talked about since I was a kid 30 years ago."
Gilbert's application for ownership needs to be approved by at
least 23 of the league's 30 owners. Before a vote takes place, the
league will do a background check on Gilbert, who has one
indiscretion of note.
According to a story in the Lansing State Journal, Gilbert was
arrested with three other students in 1981 on charges of operating
a bookmaking ring at Michigan State that handled $114,000 in bets
on football and basketball games.
Gilbert was accused of conspiring to violate state gambling
laws. He was fined, given three years' probation and ordered to do
100 hours of community service, the paper said. The felony was
dropped after he completed the sentences.
Court documents and police records could not be obtained
Quicken Loans spokesperson Elizabeth Jones said in an e-mail
sent to the AP on Monday night that despite the arrest, Gilbert's
record is exemplary.
"Twenty-five years ago, as a teenage student, Mr. Gilbert was
arrested with several other students," Jones said. "Shortly
after, all charges were completely dismissed. Mr. Gilbert has never
been convicted of any crime in his entire life."
Jones went on to point out that Gilbert was admitted to the
Michigan state bar to practice law and was approved to sit on the
board of a savings and loan.
"He has also been personally investigated by nearly all 50
states as an officer of a mortgage lending institution," she said.
"In addition to HUD, FNMA, FHLMC and other federal agencies
conducting their own personal background checks. Mr. Gilbert has
been subject to intense and thorough scrutiny by multiple
governmental and educational institutions and has never on any
occasion been censored or had any negative action taken by any of
these authorities from results of their comprehensive review of his
NBA spokesman Tim Frank said the league has just begun reviewing
Gilbert's application for ownership. Frank would not comment beyond
saying Gilbert and Gund had reached their agreement. He said there
is no timetable for the board to vote on the proposed deal.
Gilbert heads a group of investors that will assume ownership of
the Cavaliers and operational control of the 20,000-seat Gund
Arena, if the league's Board of Governors approves the deal.
Gund and his brother George bought the team from Ted Stepien in
1983 for $20 million. Gordon Gund will maintain a minority stake of
at least 10 percent, a source with knowledge of the terms of the
sale told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
In buying the Cavaliers, the 42-year-old Gilbert has satisfied a
sports craving that dates to a childhood spent rooting for the
Detroit Lions, who have endured years of frustration -- just like
the Cavaliers. Gilbert failed in an attempt to buy the Milwaukee
Brewers last year.
Primarily because of James, the league's reigning Rookie of the
Year, the Cavaliers, who won just 17 games two years ago, have
never been more visible or valuable since joining the league in
Gilbert acknowledged that James made the Cavaliers more
alluring, but that he would have been interested in the team if the
second-year star wasn't in Cleveland.
"As great as one person might be, you can't base your decisions
on one person," Gilbert said. "He's certainly a big part of the
Gilbert said he has no plans to relocate the Cavaliers, a
possibility that had made Cleveland residents, some of whom are
still bitter about Art Modell moving the Browns to Baltimore in
1995, nervous when they heard Gund was selling.
"They will be staying put in downtown Cleveland -- right where
they belong," he said.
The Cavaliers have a lease agreement with the city that runs