(Reuters) - The National Basketball Association's Houston Rockets are up for sale, the team said on Monday.
Billionaire businessman and financier Leslie Alexander bought the club before the start of the 1993-94 season for a reported $85 million and it was recently valued at $1.65 billion by Forbes.
"It's been my great joy and honor to own the Houston Rockets for the past 24 years," Alexander said in a statement released by the team.
"I've had the incredible opportunity to witness true greatness through the players and coaches who have won championships for the city, been named to All-Star and All-NBA teams, enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame, and done so much for our franchise and our fans."
The Rockets, who won back-to-back titles in 1994 and 1995, finished last season with the third best record in the Western conference but underlined their championship ambitions by signing James Harden to a contract extension earlier this month that will pay him $228 million over the next six seasons.
Rockets CEO Tad Brown said the weight of ownership had taken a toll on Alexander who wants to focus more of his time and energies on philanthropic efforts and family.
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"I've made this decision after much deliberation with my family and friends and do so knowing the franchise is in great shape with the players, coaches and management team in place," added Alexander. "CEO Tad Brown will oversee the sales process with the league office, supported by my management team."
With Yao Ming as the team's centerpiece, the Rockets helped popularize the game globally, and particularly in China which is now the NBA's biggest market outside of the United States.
“Leslie Alexander is a true competitor who always searched for the right move to make his teams better," said NBA commissioner Adam Silver in a statement.
"Under his ownership, he created a culture of excellence with strong management that attracted Hall of Famers, All-Stars and coaching giants and brought two NBA championships and four WNBA titles to Houston.
"Well-respected around the league, he has been an active and influential owner whose vision helped to grow the game globally, especially in China."
(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto; Editing by Ken Ferris)