NBA rumors: Blazers to be auctioned in the next few months?

More on Portland Trail Blazers Sale?

A sitting team president of an NBA franchise told me it’s unlikely that the league’s owners would allow the Trail Blazers to relocate to Seattle after a potential sale. “That’s a no-go,” he said. The prevailing sentiment is that Seattle and Las Vegas have already been unofficially earmarked for NBA expansion and the current owners would prefer to avoid cannibalizing what would be a windfall of $6 billion in combined expansion fees.
A number of potential ownership groups have been rumored to be interested in pursuing the Trail Blazers. Among the names that I have heard as possible majority owners: Oracle Corporation co-founder Larry Ellison, philanthropist MacKenzie Scott and Laurene Powell-Jobs. Ellison has unsuccessfully attempted to buy NBA teams on three occasions. Scott is the ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. Powell-Jobs, the widow of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, is an executive and businesswoman.
I’m told there is no plan for the franchise to be relocated. Portland has a functional arena, loyal customers and commissioner Adam Silver wouldn’t dare repeat the biggest mistake of David Stern’s career — ushering the Sonics to Oklahoma City. It’s why the timing on the negotiation of the existing lease agreement and the potential auction is so interesting. The city wants to get a deal done. The franchise does, too. Most believe the NBA will eventually put expansion franchises in Seattle and Las Vegas and provide a multi-billion dollar windfall split by the rest of the league’s owners. That will undoubtedly be baked into the sales price in Portland.
The NBA franchise and the City of Portland remain in “productive discussions” about the lease that ties them together, per a city source. The lease expires in 2025 and includes ironclad language that ensures the team stays through 2023. Said the source: “The negotiations are a priority for both sides.”
If this is a surprise, you haven’t been paying attention. As an organization, the Blazers have been melting since their playoff exit. Coach Terry Stotts was cut loose. Sources say billionaire Jody Allen plans to sell the team. The Blazers are prominent in trade rumors.
Since Paul’s 2018 death, the team has been run by Paul’s sister Jody. Levi Pulkkinen in the Seattle Post Intelligencer reported the story of several lawsuits brought by bodyguards for Paul’s company, Vulcan, where Jody was long the CEO. In the fall of 2010, a new head of security arrived from the FBI and found the security team in disarray “because of Jody Allen’s sexual harassment of team members,” and—in some allegations—messing with the pay of those who rebuffed her advances. One former military man said under oath he didn’t feel comfortable being alone with Jody Allen. Pulkkinen writes: Another former Vulcan bodyguard, also a retired Navy SEAL, said Jody Allen bought tight, revealing swimsuits for the security detail and asked the men to “do a fashion show.” Vulcan contends that any conduct resembling that described was entirely innocent and occured in the spirit of fun. In 2012, one veteran testified, “I’d rather get shot at than do this.” One remembered telling a Vulcan attorney that Jody Allen’s behavior was “going to bring the company down.”
Wrapped up in those lawsuits and arbitration—some of which were settled—were several allegations about the bones of rare animals being smuggled for Jody Allen. The FDA reportedly collected and destroyed 78 pounds of Allen’s giraffe bones. And then there were the penguin parts. In a memo, a security officer noted that they were able to make sure “the penguin bones that JA picked up in Antarctica were boxed and put on the plane without being scanned at customs.” Jody Allen emailed her nanny looking for a penguin skull that went missing during the return from Antarctica; a friend apparently wanted to make jewelry from it. Deposed during the lawsuit, Jody Allen refused to say whether she took the bones or trespassed into a protected penguin nesting area. Even security guards with special forces training needed protection from these billionaires. What chance did the penguins stand?
Sean Highkin: A thing to keep in mind with all the Dame talk is that trading him would probably lower the franchise’s valuation by at least $200m and Jody Allen has wanted to sell for a while. Even if he outright asks for a trade (which I stlll don’t believe he will) it’s just not realistic.
The Trail Blazers are now listed as being worth $1.85 BILLION. That’s incredible to me for a team not located in one of the nation’s media centers. And it reinforces something that I’ve been saying for months now: Jody Allen is going to sell this team. I’m not sure when, because it probably has to await the untangling of all of Paul Allen’s assets.
There are still enough potential interested parties who want to own a team that they can be found on the down low. Nobody knew Paul Allen was buying the team until he sat down at his first news conference. I expect the same thing to happen in the next year or two -- only Jody Allen isn’t likely to be there. But she’s going to sell. And you can take that to the bank.
There is little doubt, if the franchise were to be put on the market, who would be the early odds-on favorite to buy it. That would be Larry Ellison, the co-founder of Oracle Corporation. Ellison has attempted to buy three NBA teams, the Golden State Warriors, New Orleans Pelicans and Memphis Grizzlies. And if he bought the Blazers, he would become the richest owner in the NBA, surpassing the Clippers’ Steve Ballmer by about $15 billion. Ellison’s net worth has been estimated at $64.5 billion, which would make him the sixth-richest person in the world. He financed the winning sailboat in the 2010 America's Cup and actually crewed on that craft. He is also a licensed pilot who owns fighter jets.
Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish said on Thursday that he expects the city’s NBA team to be sold in the wake of owner Paul Allen’s death last year. Fish is concerned that new Trail Blazers ownership might seek to relocate the team. “The clear sense I’ve received from Blazers management is that this team will be put on the block at some point,” Fish said. “I’ve been told the estate will take about five to six years to be settled. We expect the team will be put on the market.”
The timing of the potential sale and the expiration of the NBA franchise’s lease make for a tricky transition to new NBA ownership. Anyone potentially buying the team would want that lease matter settled, and also, desire the area around the venue to be more vibrant. “The current lease with the Blazers is very favorable to the city,” Fish said. “I would expect the renegotiation of that lease to be more challenging."
A new​ figure has​ emerged​ to​ lead​ the Trail Blazers in the wake​ of owner​ Paul​ Allen’s passing:​ his​ sister,​​ Jody Allen. The Athletic has learned that Ms. Allen has been decisive in ruling on a variety of major decisions for the team, which as of now, she has no intention of selling. “Nothing is for sale right now,” said Chris McGowan, the Blazers president and CEO of Vulcan Sports and Entertainment, which also includes the Seattle Seahawks. “We are operating business as usual and Neil and I are collaborating regularly with her on all major organizational decisions.”
The Blazers were presented with a minor trade earlier this season, during which Ms. Allen gave the go-ahead, but the deal never materialized. That exercise sheds light on what some are calling a seamless and fluid hierarchy within the Blazers, which was in doubt when Allen passed away on Oct. 15 from complications from non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
The established line of power — McGowan and Olshey reporting to Ms. Allen (which also includes Olshey and McGowan working with Bert Kolde, Allen’s right-hand man and director of the Blazers’ board) — becomes even more important as Saturday marks the first red-letter date in the NBA season: the first day players who were signed in the summer can be traded. “Jody has empowered me and Neil to do our jobs,” McGowan said. “She makes the final decisions, but there has been no handcuffs … she has been a quick decision maker.”
Chris McGowan, the CEO of Vulcan Sports, did not return a message seeking comment on the subject. But multiple NBA sources have told me in the last couple of weeks that they believe the Blazers will eventually be sold. The timeline for that sale would be in the 18-36-month window.
NBA sources tell me that it's unlikely that an outside ownership group would buy the team and convince the league to abandon a successful market. So I think it's unlikely the franchise could be purchased and moved unless something in this discussion changes.
The filled arena. Commissioner Adam Silver sitting in the 100-level, couldn't have missed it. Said Whitsitt: "I'm 99 percent sure (they stay in Portland.) It's a tremendous market. It's been well supported forever. It's a really good success story for the NBA and I guess my only one percent is, I could have said the same thing for the Sonics. "I can't imagine any scenario where my brain sees the Blazers not in Portland."
There would be plenty of buyer interest in the Seahawks and Portland Trail Blazers if either goes up for sale, but there are no actual reasons to relocate those teams, two specialists in franchise acquisitions said Tuesday. In fact, Charles H. Baker, the New York-based co-chairman of the Sports Industry Group at the O’Melveny & Myers law firm, said it’s entirely possible billionaire Microsoft founder Paul Allen put conditions in his will blocking relocation if the teams are sold. Baker, who recently represented hedge fund investor David Tepper in his $2.275-billion purchase of the NFL’s Carolina Panthers, said he has no direct knowledge of the Seahawks or Blazers situations but such stipulations aren’t uncommon.
An NBA source said Tuesday the league has no interest at all in the Blazers relocating to Seattle, shooting down one of the early rumors that surfaced after Allen died Monday of non-Hodgkins lymphoma at age 65. The Blazers’ lease with the City of Portland at the Moda Center runs through at least 2025, the team is making money — unlike struggling franchises in Memphis and New Orleans — and the league also is uninterested in repairing its image in Seattle by hurting another Northwest city.
Bert Kolde, Vice Chairman of the Trail Blazers and a Senior Director at Vulcan, would likely have interest in ownership. Kolde, a long-time friend of Allen, has been a presence around the franchise for years. So he becomes one option. But wanting to own the team and actually landing it are far different things.
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