During his 1996 introductory press conference at Reunion Arena in which he bought the Dallas Mavericks from founding father Don Carter, Ross Perot Jr. offered a simple, serious question:
"How many players are on the court?"
And that, my friends, is all you need to know about the man trying to pressure current Mavs owner Mark Cuban to buy him out. This morning's headlines scream "Perot Sues Cuban Over Imminent Insolvency." Read between the lines and Perot wants out. This latest squabble fought in the legal arena is just another attempt by Perot to get out of a sports industry he never really wanted to be a part of in the first place.
Perot, Jr. bought the Mavs as a business venture. He wanted a piece of the city's new arena. He cared about the bottom line, and not a damn thing more.
After all, Perot Jr. is the man who shrugged and okayed the hiring of Jim Cleamons, the trading of Jason Kidd and who allowed business partner and woefully insufficient basketball decision-maker Frank Zaccanelli run the team as an interim general manager.
Business-wise and being-born-into-the-right-family-wise, Perot Jr. is a genius. Sports-wise, he is a buttoned-up buffoon.
As owner of the Mavs, he conducted interviews in a suit and tie in his swanky office, always flanked by assistants ready to quash a question or supply an answer. Cuban? He often stops into 7-Eleven for lunch and chats with reporters via personal email or atop his StairMaster.
If that weren't enough, to me the lawsuit is bogus on its fundamental lack of merit.
Cuban, lest we forget, is a billionaire. He's also the Mavs' largest shareholder, owning 76 percent of the team. Perot Jr. owns 5 percent. Cuban has always been stingy with his team's financial records, but if indeed the Mavs have run up $200 million in debut, so what?
Cuban could cover that with the change in his car's ash tray.
I do know that some of Cuban's employees have been asked to take pay cuts in recent years and it's no secret that his HDNet isn't a money-maker, but it amounts to belt-tightening more than economic climate panic. Perot? I heard he spent six-figures buying up domain names like boat.com and popcorn.com in a failed attempt to drive web surfers to his sites.
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But just look at the Mavs. Cuban has spent more than $100 million trying to get help for Dirk Nowitzi and the team has one of the NBA's highest payrolls, yet there are still $5 tickets at American Airlines Center.
Under Perot's leadership from '96-'00, the Mavericks were 72-172. Under Cuban they have 10 consecutive playoff seasons and 50-plus wins. Which owner would you rather have?
In light of the Mavericks' first-round loss to the San Antonio Spurs and the Spurs ensuing dismissal from the playoffs by the Phoenix Suns, if Perot Jr. wanted to allege that the Mavericks were incompetent he might have a point. But insolvent?
Craziest thing he's said Carter handed him the keys.