LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Harrah's Entertainment's top executive is entering a new outside venture: professional team ownership.
Gary Loveman, who lives outside of Boston, is buying a 2.4 percent minority stake in his hometown National Basketball Association team, the Celtics, according to an article in Sunday's Boston Globe.
Although the share is relatively small, the purchase was first rejected by the league's commissioner David Stern because of Loveman's job as chairman, chief executive officer and president of the casino company.
However, Loveman's application was forwarded in April to the seven-member committee that is studying Las Vegas' viability to be the home city for an NBA team.
The committee approved Loveman's application if Harrah's agreed to stop taking bets on all Celtics games at the company's sports books.
Jacqueline Peterson, spokeswoman for Harrah's Entertainment, said the team's games have been removed from the company's sports books.
Both the Celtics and the NBA confirmed the report was factual but declined to discuss the transaction further.
Joel Litvin, the NBA's president of league and basketball operations, told the Globe that Loveman's bid to buy a stake in the team is considered a "slam dunk."
The Celtics declined to discuss whether the deal would give Loveman a seat on the team's board or any kind of role in the team's operations.
Loveman, through a spokeswoman, also declined to comment before the deal closes.
Stern referred to Loveman's pending deal during a speech to the association's Board of Governors in New York on Oct. 25.
"We're trying to be welcoming on the one hand and on the other we're trying to make sure that we eliminate to the greatest extent possible questions that can be raised," he said.
Harrah's has sports books at Caesars Palace, Paris Las Vegas, Bally's, Imperial Palace, Flamingo, Harrah's and the Rio in Las Vegas.
The company also has betting lines at Harrah's-branded casinos in Reno, Lake Tahoe and Laughlin, as well as Harveys Lake Tahoe.
The deal will not require Harrah's to stop taking bets on any other NBA teams.
The Palms, which is owned by the owners of the Sacramento Kings, the Maloof family, posts no NBA games.
George Maloof, who runs the gaming property's day-to-day operations, said the NBA does not restrict him from being involved in the Kings' operations. Nevertheless, Maloof involves himself solely in the casino and not the team.
He added that he didn't know of Loveman's move to own part of the Celtics.
Loveman's personal investment comes at the same time as Harrah's Entertainment's joint-venture partnership with Los Angeles-based arena developer Anschutz Entertainment Group to build a $500 million arena a block off the Strip.
The privately funded 20,000-seat arena, which is slated for 10 acres owned by Harrah's behind Bally's and Paris Las Vegas, will be built to possibly house an NBA franchise, the partners said this summer.
The arena still needs approval from county officials, but plans are to break ground in June and open by September 2010.
Stern has said that the league has no immediate plans to expand and there is no guarantee that Las Vegas would be first in line for an expansion franchise even with an arena.
Loveman lives outside of Boston and taught at Harvard University Business School for four years before joining Harrah's in 1998.
The Celtics were bought for $360 million in 2002 by an ownership group led by the long-time Grousbeck family of Massachusetts.
Corinne Grousbeck, wife of team managing partner, governor and chief executive officer Wycliffe Grousbeck, and Loveman both sit on the board of trustees for the Children's Hospital Boston.
Harrah's Entertainment is in the regulatory process of a $17.1 billion buyout by a joint-venture by the private equity firms Texas Pacific Group and Apollo Management.
The deal has already received approval in a few states and is expected to go before the Nevada gaming regulators in December.
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