Finance

Dan Gilbert: How the owner of Cleveland Cavs made his money


Dan Gilbert is the founder and majority owner of Rocket Companies, the largest home mortgage lender in the United State which closed $351 billion of mortgage volume in 2021.

In addition to his investment in the downtown Detroit real estate, the billionaire owns a majority stake in the Cleveland Cavaliers, a National Basketball Association franchise.

Gilbert is 70th on the Bloomberg billionaire index with a net worth of N19.8 billion as of 24th May 2021 ahead of Jorge Paulo Lemann and immediately after Alisher Usmanov.

Early life

Gilbert was born in a Detroit suburb on January 17, 1962, to a bar owner in a Jewish household in Southfield, Michigan. He attended Southfield-Lathrup High School and Michigan State University.

Gilbert further enrolled at Wayne State University Law School, earned a Juris Doctor, and became a member of the State Bar of Michigan. It was during law school that he got his real estate agent’s license while he was working at his parents’ real estate agency, century 21 real estate.

Rocket Companies

In 1985, Gilbert set up lender Rock Financial alongside his younger brother, Gary Gilbert, Ron Berman and Lindsay Gross, using money he saved up from delivering pizzas upon identifying opportunities in the growing mortgage industry. After a year, he launched Rockloans.com, an online direct mortgage lender.

In 1999, the company was bought by software maker Intuit for $370 million and renamed Quicken Loans. After three years however, Gilbert bought back the company, which thrived following Lehman Brothers’ collapse in 2008, having avoided entering the subprime mortgage market. Since then, he moved the company’s headquarters to downtown Detroit in August 2010, and through closely held investment company Rock Ventures started to buy buildings in the city centre.

In August 2020, the company went public on the New York Stock Exchange taking the company to a valuation of about $35 billion to become America’s largest retail mortgage originator.

Sport franchise

In 2005, Gilbert became the majority owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2005 by buying a 7% stake, undertaking a complete overhaul of the front office, coaching staff, player personnel and game presentation.

Subsequently, he expanded it into casinos, buying Detroit’s Greektown Casino in April 2013.

During Gilbert’s tenure, he helped the Cavs win six Central Division championships (2009, 2010, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018), five Eastern Conference championships (2007, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018), and one NBA championship (2016), breaking the record for the 52-year Cleveland sports.

In 2007, Gilbert bought the dormant Utah Grizzlies American Hockey League franchise, moved it to Cleveland and renamed it the Lake Erie Monsters (now Cleveland Monsters) and in 2016, the franchise won the AHL’s top prize (the Calder Cup) giving Dan two championships within eight days.

In 2011, he bought the New Mexico Thunderbirds from what was then the NBA Developmental League, formally know as the G League and moved them to Canton, Ohio renaming them the Canton Charge, and making them the Cavaliers’ affiliate.

He also owns Rock Ohio Caesars, which owns resorts and racetracks in Ohio and Kentucky.

Other business ventures

Gilbert is a founding partner in Rockbridge, a private equity group that invests in growing businesses in the financial services, Internet technology, consumer-direct marketing, and the sports and entertainment industries.

The billionaire co-founded StockX, a stock market of things for high-demand, limited edition products such as sneakers. In addition to this, he has invested and been involved in the operation of several consumer-based technology-centred businesses, including Fathead, Veritix, Xenith, StyleCaster and Quizzle.

He launched Bizdom, a nonprofit platform which promotes both tech and brick-and-mortar entrepreneurship in Detroit and Cleveland by supporting on-the-ground service providers in 2007.

Rock Ventures, the umbrella entity for Gilbert’s investments and real estate holdings, announced it had formed Athens Acquisition LLC, an affiliate of Rock Gaming, and acquired the majority interest in Greektown Superholdings Inc., owner of the Greektown Casino-Hotel located in downtown Detroit.

Gilbert bought the online dictionaries, Dictionary.com and Thesaurus.com in 2018.

Personal life and other endeavours

  • Dan is married to Jennifer Gilbert and they both have five children. Their eldest son was born with neurofibromatosis.
  • He established two Neurofibromatosis research clinics at the Children’s National Medical Center (CNMC) in Washington, D.C., and at the Dana Children’s Hospital at the Sourasky Medical Center in Tel Aviv, Israel.
  • In 2020, his Rocket Companies began trading on the New York Stock Exchange. He also made a $1.2 million donation to help COVID-19 relief efforts in the city of Detroit.



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