he Portland Trail Blazers have reportedly fielded a $2 billion offer from Phil Knight, the founder and former C.E.O. of Nike, and Los Angeles Dodgers co-owner Alan Smolinisky. The N.B.A. team is currently owned by The Paul G. Allen Trust, named after the late co-founder of Microsoft, and is now managed by his sister Jody. But per the organization, the deal has been shut down for now.
According to the New York Times, an official statement issued from a Blazers’ spokeswoman reads as follows: “An offer was made by Phil Knight. The team remains not for sale.”
In 1988, a then 35-year-old Allen purchased the Blazers for $70 million and ensured the organization remained in the Pacific Northwest. And according to Forbes, the team’s worth has grown nearly thirtyfold and is presently evaluated at $2.05 billion. So it would seem the offer from Allen and Smolinisky would be under market value. However, an anonymous source told the Times that the real dollar amount offered far exceeds the reported $2 billion.
There is an unspoken reason the deal may not have been approved, though. Since Paul Allen’s death in 2018, there have been rumors that his sister Jody has been secretly maneuvering to disregard her late brother’s wishes and expand her own controlling interest within the trust. In fact, one recent tipoff was her visible presence in the Seattle Seahawks’ War Room next to head coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider during the 2022 N.F.L. draft. (Note: The Paul G. Allen Trust owns the Seattle Seahawks, too.)
Paul Allen’s real vision for the Trail Blazers and Seahawks has never been publicly discussed. However, trustees have a strict fiduciary obligation to operate in the best decisions of the overall trust, irrespective of an individual team owner’s wants. Furthermore, the sale of an N.B.A. team needs to be approved by at least 75% of the other team owners.
The popularity of Blazers guard Damian Lillard coupled with the Blazers’ cost-cutting measures on all fronts means that a prospective buyer could possibly buy the team at a discount and move it to a more competitive market. But if N.B.A. Commissioner Adam Silver has any say, that shouldn’t happen. Prior to last night’s Game 1 of the N.B.A. Finals between the Golden State Warriors and the Boston Celtics, he revealed his belief that “at some point, the team will be sold.”
But Silver also made sure to add the following: “Portland has been a wonderful community for the N.B.A. The team has been there over 50 years now, and our preference, my preference, would be that that team remain in Portland as part of this process.”
Photo: Drew Angerer / Getty