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.”
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The Trail Blazers’ lease with the city of Portland runs through 2025. It includes iron-clad language that would ensure the team stays through at least 2023. But it’s the uncertainty that Fish and some others would like to put to rest in front of a potential sale.
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.
With current NBA valuations, and ownership of Moda Center included, the Vulcans may eventually wonder why they’re spending money on an operation that could essentially be cashed in for $1 billion. New ownership is a strong possibility.
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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April 24, 2019 | 8:55 pm EDT Update
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The FBI is investigating whether the longtime business manager of Lakers point guard Lonzo Ball and his family defrauded them of millions of dollars, according to two law enforcement officials. Until recently, Ball said he and his family had no idea that Gregory Alan Foster, who he described as “like my second dad,” had served time in federal prison for taking part in a scheme that deprived investors of $3.735 million.
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