NBA Rumor: Portland Trail Blazers Sale?

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Nevertheless, several groups interested in prying away the Blazers in a sale have made their interest known to the Paul Allen Trust and league office, sources said. Perhaps, though, no prospective group has the cache and star power in the Pacific Northwest as a Phil Knight-led bid. Knight’s deep ties to the region — with Nike and his support of his alma mater, the University of Oregon — reflect the prospective ownership group’s desire to keep the team in Portland for the long term, sources said.

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.

No plans for Blazers to be relocated

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.

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?

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.”

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 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.”

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.
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June 25, 2022 | 5:45 pm EDT Update