Houston Rockets owner Les Alexander putting team up for sale

HOUSTON - Houston Rockets owner Les Alexander is putting the team up for sale, the team announced Monday afternoon.

Alexander bought the Rockets in 1993 for $85 million. Forbes, in February, estimated the Rockets' worth at $1.65 billion, the eighth most valuable NBA team.

“It’s been my great joy and honor to own the Houston Rockets for the past 24 years,” said Alexander. “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. And the Houston community has been home to me; I will continue to support the charities I have made commitments to throughout the years. I’ll always have a special place in my heart for the fans, partners, city officials and employees who care so deeply for this team.  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." 

READ: A timeline look at Rockets owner Les Alexander's impact on the city

Alexander said Rockets CEO Tad Brown will oversee the sales process.

Houston billionaire businessman Tilman Fertitta has confirmed his interest in the purchase of the team.

In Alexander's first two seasons of ownership, Houston won back-to-back championships.

WATCH: Rockets announce team up for sale

Alexander has the second-highest win percentage in the NBA since Alexander took over as owner, second only to the San Antonio Spurs.

In 2003, when Toyota Center opened, the franchise almost instantly became twice as profitable.

Alexander said he was ready to make the change because he wants to focus on different passions with his time and resources.

PHOTOS: Rockets owner Les Alexander through the years

Alexander said he is committed to finding a buyer that will keep the team in Houston.

At a press conference Monday, Rockets CEO Tad Brown said he was surprised when Alexander told him he wanted to sell team. He said they hadn't talked much about it.

"There are passions in his life that are becoming more clear," Brown said. "Houston is home for him, It’s always been such a joy for him. He’s going to continue his commitments to the charities that he’s supported."

Brown said Alexander has been approached many times in the past about selling the team.

READ: Which Houstonians could afford to buy the Rockets?

Brown said when the players learned that Alexander was selling the team they were surprised. Brown said he has talked to James Harden, Chris Paul and Trevor Ariza. He wants the players to know there will be minimal distraction during the search to find a new owner.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said, "Les Alexander has been a terrific owner and a terrific supporter of the community. I look forward to the next owner working in the same mode."

NBA commissioner Adam Silver released a statement Monday that read, "Leslie Alexander is a true competitor who always searched for the right move to make his teams better. 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. Moreover, his philanthropy speaks just as powerfully as his ownership, with local libraries, women’s centers and homeless shelters all benefitting from his generosity."

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