Portland owner, one of world’s richest men, complains about NBA finances

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For some context, Portland Trail Blazer owner Paul Allen is worth $13 billion dollars according to Forbes. That would make him the 21st richest man in the United States. Which is the kind of money you get when you are one of the founders of Microsoft. Put it this way: When it was time to interview Rich Cho for the Trail Blazers’ GM position, Allen few Cho out to do the interview on his yacht in Helsinki, where he was vacationing.

So when Paul Allen complains about the economic system in the NBA it’s not that he can’t afford it. It’s that he feels he shouldn’t have to.

And in his new biography — with the NBA parts reviewed at Blazers Edge — he complains not about the salary cap or percentage of Basketball Related Income, he complains about revenue sharing. You know, the things the players union keels bringing up.

Allen also goes into a fair bit of financial detail about the Blazers. He says he purchased the team for $65 million after making a “handshake deal” with previous owner Larry Weinberg and that he sunk “more than a half billion dollars in the franchise” prior to filing for bankruptcy to restructure the Rose Garden deal.

By the end of the chapter, Allen is advocating for a more level playing field between small market and big market teams. “We’re doing just about everything right, but we’re still losing money,” Allen writes. And, due to contract extensions for Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge, the Blazers “won’t be turning a profit anytime soon, a fact that speaks volumes about the plight of smaller-market franchises in the NBA.” He points out that the NBA has yet to address the “big market / small market discrepancy” in revenue generating potential and says that in his “perfect world” the NBA would be a place where “the most successful NBA teams wouldn’t necessarily be those with the biggest local television markets or corporate-suite bases.”

Perhaps most interestingly, Allen says that he met with NBA commissioner David Stern in New York City when the Rose Garden was in bankruptcy to discuss his options. Stern’s response: “Well, you can always sell your team.”

Allen is a private person who doesn’t talk much, but is now. He did a long sit down with the Oregonian talking about the book and more — why he had to have the team file bankruptcy to get out of the Rose Garden deal, his relationship with Clyde Drexler, why Qyntel Woods disappointed him, and even Greg Oden’s knees. It’s worth a read.

In that interview he sounds more like one of the owners who is looking for this new Collective Bargaining Agreement change the economic playing field for small market franchises. But he realizes revenue sharing has to be a part of that. And David Stern said that was discussed frankly by owners at the last Board of Governor’s meeting. But that is very, very different than having a consensus.

Allen could use that economic change and some revenue sharing cash, because he is locked into Brandon Roy for a long time now.

One other interesting line that Blazers Edge pulled out.

Allen on Michael Jordan: “I’ve seen just one other person up close who compared to him, who wanted not only to beat you but to crush you if he could. Those two stood apart for raw competitiveness: Michael Jordan and Bill Gates.”