If the recent sale of Chelsea FC taught us anything, it’s that sports franchises are as valuable as ever. The English Premier League club sold for $5 billion, and there was no shortage of suitors. That should make Portland Trail Blazers’ fans sleep better in the coming months as a sale of the team is inevitable.
After owner Paul Allen passed away, his sister Jody has assumed the role of owner, and it’s meant to only be temporary, according to John Canzano. The longtime Pacific Northwest sports writer said of Allen’s two sports franchises — the Blazers and the Seattle Seahawks — Rip City is likely to be sold first with the Hawks following soon after.
The good news for the people of Rose City who are worried about a new owner moving the team north a few hours to Seattle is that possibility is a “no go,” per a sitting team president of an NBA franchise. There’s been rumors of expansion teams coming to Seattle and Las Vegas, and the lucrative fees that come with them.
Of the three potential bidders that Canzano floated, two of them are high-profile women, with MacKenzie Scott (Jeff Bezos’ ex-wife) and Laurene Powell-Jobs (widow of Steve Jobs) showing interest.
Oracle Corporation co-founder Larry Ellison, who bid for and lost out on attempts to purchase the Warriors, Pelicans, and Grizzlies, also is in the mix. In addition to those names, the groups who come up short in their attempt to purchase the Denver Broncos could throw their billions into the ring because speculation is the people overseeing the auction of Mile High’s favorite franchise will conduct the sale of the Blazers, as well.
The vice chair of the Blazers, Bert Kolde, is in charge of the transaction and is paying close attention to what the Broncos fetch. Valued at $1.7 billion when Allen died, Kolde’s ideal price for a sale is in the range of $3 billion.
All of that adds up to a tremendous amount of money in the banana stand. As a Blazer diehard, my choice would be between Scott and Powell-Jobs because sports needs another old, white, male owner like the NFL, NBA, NHL, and EPL needs another Stan Kroenke.
The most high-profile female owners in professional sports are Lakers’ owner Jeannie Buss, Detroit Lions’ owner Sheila Ford Hamp, New Orleans Saints and Pelicans’ owner Gayle Benson, and I guess Jody Allen, who is soon to be a former owner. (Canzano mentioned an unsubstantiated rumor that Allen might be trying to keep a piece of the Seahawks, so there’s a universe where she could still be involved in the ownership of a sports franchise.)
There’s no guarantee that Scott or Powell-Jobs would be successful as owners because it’s an incredibly hard undertaking. The Lakers won a title under Buss, but haven’t done much right since except for hiring Darvin Ham. The Lions have had some good offseason clippings, and hopefully that leads to in-season success. (I remain skeptical until I see it, though. Not because of Ford; more because they’re the Lions.) And the New Orleans franchises under Benson have been great to encouraging first-round exit. The recent Saints’ run was the best in franchise history, and the Pelicans were able to turn around their season despite whatever is up with Zion Williamson and the city’s apathetic approach to NBA basketball.
On the WNBA side, its most notable/notorious female owner was Kelly Loeffler, who got run out of Atlanta by her own players due to her rampant Trumpism. Scott and Powell-Jobs are the opposite of that, and the baseline of them as people would be a welcome outlier compared to their male counterparts.
Scott is a philanthropist by trade, and has made generous donations to organizations like Spark Justice, which provides money to bail funds, and the Communities Transforming Police Fund, an activist group that’s focused on “redefining safety” and investing in “alternatives to police and jails.”
Lowell-Jobs also is heavily involved in philanthropic work. She pledged to donate $3.5 billion to combat climate change. I do disagree with her stance on donor-advised funds, which essentially allow donors to remain anonymous, because the public should know where the money goes, who it goes to, and how it’s used to exert influence. That said, her contributions to the presidential campaigns of Hilary Clinton and Joe Biden, as well as her stake in The Atlantic and public admonishment of Donald Trump, paint a picture of someone who possesses the values that the league — and Portlandians — hold dear.
The catch to either of those powerful women taking the helm is last offseason’s coaching search that saw Chauncey Billups get hired over Becky Hammon, who would’ve broken barriers as the first female to be a head coach in the NBA. Billups was accused of sexual assault in 1997, and Damian Lillard, who we know is incredibly revered in the city, caught shit for endorsing Billups as head coach.
His future and the future of the franchise are inextricably linked, and who knows how he’d feel if Powell-Jobs or Scott opted to jettison the coach he preferred and one who Lillard said he feels obligated to help succeed. There’s also no guarantee that Scott or Powell-Jobs will be successful as owners because it’s not an easy job.
The one thing that is a certainty is the Trail Blazers will have new ownership, and hopefully its passionate, loyal, and protective fanbase will have an owner that they — and Lillard — can get behind.