Reports Thursday that a group led by Nike founder Phil Knight has submitted a written offer to buy the Portland Trail Blazers for more than $2 billion inevitably raised speculation about the Seahawks — both teams are owned by the Paul G. Allen Trust.
But a source close to the situation insisted on Thursday that nothing has changed with the Seahawks — the team is not for sale and there is no indication it will be any time soon.
And turns out, the Blazers may also not be for sale. For now, anyway.
A few hours after several media outlets—including ESPN and The New York Times—reported the news of Knight’s offer, the Blazers released a statement saying “An offer was made by Phil Knight. The team remains not for sale.”
Possibly, that’s just bargaining. Or semantics.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver, in a news conference before Game 1 of the NBA Finals Thursday night, was asked about the report of the offer to buy the Blazers and said “at some point, the team will be sold. I don’t have any sense of the precise timing.”
And ESPN reported shortly after the statement that Knight and his group, which also includes Los Angeles Dodgers part-owner Alan Smolinsky, “are expected to continue pursuit” of the team.
Speculation about the futures of both teams has persisted since Allen died in October 2018.
His sister, Jody Allen, then took over as the head of the trust — her official title with Seahawks is “Chair of the Seattle Seahawks.”
Bert Kolde, a childhood friend and longtime associate of Paul Allen’s, is vice chair of both the Seahawks and the Trail Blazers.
As ESPN noted again Thursday, “the belief has long been that sales of the Blazers and the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks are part of an eventual plan for the trust.”
In fact, reports that the Seahawks could be sold emerged within days of Paul Allen’s death.
A report from Portland-based writer and talk-show host John Canzano stated last week that the trust, established in 1993, includes a directive that it must be liquidated with the proceeds to go to Paul Allen’s “passion projects.”
There has been some speculation that the directive states that must happen within 10 years of Paul Allen’s death. But that has not been confirmed.
Canzano further reported last week that “insiders expect the Blazers to be positioned for auction in the next 6-18 months.” And ESPN reported Thursday that “several groups” have let the NBA know they are interested in buying the Blazers if they come up for sale.
Knight, 84, has deep ties to Oregon and one reported reason for his interest in the team is to assure the Blazers remain in Portland. Silver said Thursday night his “preference” is that the Blazers remain in Portland, as well.
The team has a lease with the city that expires in 2025 and includes what has been reported as “iron-clad” language that the team remains in Portland through 2023.
Jody Allen has given no interviews since taking over the Seahawks in 2018, a silence that has helped fuel speculation about the futures of the two sports franchises the trust owns.
But the team has portrayed her in recent months as actively engaged in team functions. She notably attended portions of the NFL draft last month, huddling with coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider. She also released a strongly worded statement supporting the trade of Russell Wilson to Denver.
And if the Seahawks could be for sale any time soon, the NFL isn’t letting on.
At the NFL spring meetings last week in Atlanta, commissioner Roger Goodell was asked about the Seahawks and if the trust dictates that the team has to be sold. Said Goodell: “I don’t see any immediate change in ownership.”
Interestingly, the one NFL team that is for sale is the Broncos.
Reports state the team will hold a second round of bidding by potential owners on Monday, with a thought that the bids will start around $4 billion but with an auction process that could increase a final bid to around $5 billion.
The Seahawks, bought by Paul Allen in 1997 for $194 million, were given a valuation by Forbes Magazine of $3.5 billion, 12th in the NFL.
The Blazers, meanwhile, got a valuation by Forbes last year of $2.05 billion.
Paul Allen bought the Blazers in 1988 for $70 million.
Paul Allen, who died due to complications of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma on Oct. 15, 2018, at the age of 65, was not married and had no children, and his will listed Jody Allen and her three children as beneficiaries.
“I have been given the responsibility to steward Paul’s wealth in service of his vision for the future,” Jody Allen was quoted as saying in a statement the week after Paul Allen’s death. “I will do all that I can to ensure that Paul’s vision is realized, not just for years, but for generations.”
That statement further noted Jody Allen had been given responsibility for overseeing the execution of his will and settling his affairs with tax authorities and parties with an interest in his projects.