Award-winning singer and actor Justin Timberlake has agreed to be part of the ownership group assembled by billionaire Robert Pera in his attempt to buy the Memphis Grizzlies, said a person familiar with the situation.
The person said Friday that Pera ''has assembled a strong ownership group that includes Justin Timberlake, other community leaders from Memphis, and highly strategic national partners.'' The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the NBA has yet to approve the final purchase of the team.
The news is giving excitement and relief to fans as the new owner continues to make moves before the deal is finalized.
"If I were going to try and get a famous person I'd get Justin Timberlake," says sports radio host Chris Vernon.
JT is sure to add excitement, especially if he's at the games.
Vernon says this should be a relief for fans worried about the new owner and the Grizzlies future in Memphis.
"Right off the bat, the guy has gotten the local business community involved in a tremendous way, and now the most famous Memphian," he said.
Talking to the fans, the sense of relief and excitement was obvious.
"I like both. I like JT. I like the Grizzlies. Good news," commented one Memphian.
Another added, "Him being from Shelby County and everything, I think it's definitely great for the area and the team being here for a long time."
Pera agreed in June to buy the Grizzlies from Michael Heisley for reportedly about $350 million.
Pera is a former Apple engineer who left in 2005 to start Ubiquiti Networks, a San Jose, Calif.-based communications technology company that makes WiFi networking equipment. He became a billionaire in October 2011 when his company went public with a fortune estimated at $1.5 billion in March.
Timberlake, 31, grew up near Millington, a suburb of Memphis. In the past few years, he helped renovate a golf course northeast of Memphis.
The Grizzlies franchise has been in Memphis for 11 years, since moving from Vancouver. Fans have shown concern over whether a new owner would move the team away from Memphis, where interest in the franchise has grown after two consecutive playoff appearances.
But, in an e-mail, the person told the AP that Pera ''is committed to `doing right by Memphis' and this group reflects that commitment.''
Timberlake, who was part of the boy-band `N Sync before embarking on a solo music career, has won six Grammys.
A four-time Emmy winner, Timberlake has acted in several films - including ''Alpha Dog,'' ''The Social Network,'' and ''Friends With Benefits.'' He also has made memorable performances on ''Saturday Night Live.''
One thing is certain: If the Pera ownership bid is approved, Timberlake will add more star power to the team than any Grizzlies player, coach or owner ever has.
JT has never been shy about his allegiance to Memphis and its sports teams, but he's also spotted regularly at Lakers games.
"He has to be broken of his Laker fandom," Vernon said. "There's no way around it. He cannot be a minority owner of the Memphis Grizzlies and be parading around with the Lakers."
Having his money involved should change Timberlake's fandom very quickly, and it could put him in the stands more often too, Vernon added.
But will there be any real effect on the team?
"I think it will make them a better franchise," Vernon said. "I don't think it will affect the product on the court. It could, if the Grizzlies become the cool thing because of his involvement."
FOX13 reporter Lauren Lee contributed to this report.
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