Speculation is mounting that late Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen’s pro sports teams could be sold.
Nike founder Phil Knight already submitted a $2 billion bid for the Portland Trail Blazers.
Allen’s trust has sold off other assets, including property and a yacht, since his death in 2018.
When Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen died in 2018, he left behind a collection of assets ranging from multimillion-dollar properties to a 414-foot megayacht.
While much of it has been sold in the years since, two expensive — and high-profile — holdings remain: the NBA’ Portland Trail Blazers and the NFL’ Seattle Seahawks.
The fates of Allen’s pro sports teams have been unclear since his death, when his trust passed into the hands of his sister, Jody Allen. Jody Allen hasn’t given a single interview in the intervening years, which means there are few clues about the future of the two teams.
But speculation is mounting that both teams could be sold off to fulfill the terms of Paul Allen’s estate, and sold off in the near future. With both teams valued at or above $2 billion, there’s a small pool of moguls wealthy enough to submit a bid — and one famous exec has already made an offer.
Here’s what we know about Allen’s estate, and the future of his teams.
Allen made his fortune building Microsoft with Bill Gates
Paul Allen and his Microsoft cofounder, Bill Gates, met in high school and founded the company in 1975 — he was Allen who coined the name “Microsoft.”
Allen left the company in the early 1980s after being diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. In the decades that followed, he spent his time as a philanthropist, donating millions, and pursuing his hobbies, like exploring shipwrecks, music, collecting art and mansions, and, eventually, purchasing the Blazers and the Seahawks.
At the time of Allen’s death, Forbes placed his net worth at $20 billion.
He bought the Portland Trail Blazers in 1988
Allen paid $70 million for the Blazers back in the late 1980s and promised to keep the team in Portland — today, the Blazers are valued at $2.05 billion, according to Forbes.
Allen frequently flew from Seattle to sit courtside at Blazers games, sometimes with his Microsoft cofounder, Gates. In the early 1990s, only a few years after Allen bought the team, the Blazers reached the NBA finals twice in two years, though the team has never won a championship under his ownership.
The Blazers were beset by challenges throughout Allen’s tenure as owner, including coaching issues, ill-advised trades, financial issues with a new arena, and, in the mid-2000s, a losing record that led to plummeting fan attendance. Allen almost sold the team in 2006 but later called it off — soon after, the team turned things around, journalist Mike Tokito wrote in Forbes in 2018.
“Once you own a team for as many years as I have, and you root for that team for that period of time, you’ve got rooting for the Blazers in your blood,” Allen once told Tokito.
Allen picked up the Seattle Seahawks in 1996
Allen bought the Seahawks in 1997, paying $194 million for his hometown team.
His ownership came about after then-owner Ken Behring mulled moving the team to Los Angeles because he couldn’t get the public funding he needed to build the team a new stadium. Allen stepped in, purchasing the exclusive option to buy the team and keep it in Seattle, according to The New York Times.
Allen later spent hundreds of millions of dollars on stadium upgrades and saw the team make it to three Super Bowls, including a win in 2014.
Now worth $3.5 billion, the Seahawks are the 12th-most valuable team in the NFL, according to Forbes.
Allen died in 2018 and his assets have slowly been sold off
Allen died on October 15, 2018 due to complications from non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
“My brother was a remarkable individual on every level,” Jody Allen wrote in a statement at the time. “At this time of loss and grievance for us — and so many others — we are profoundly grateful for the care and concern he demonstrated every day.”
After Allen’s death, Jody Allen became head of his trust and soon after, some of Allen’s assets were put up for sale. A 120-acre property in a coveted Beverly Hills neighborhood went on the market for $150 million in 2018 — it was almost sold to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and was eventually purchased by ex-Google CEO Eric Schmidt earlier this year.
Another property, Allen’s Silicon Valley mansion, went on the market in 2019 and sold for $35.2 million in early 2020. And in 2021, a buyer shelled out for Allen’s megayacht, Octopus, which was listed for $278 million.
The rest of Allen’s trust now needs to be sold, according to reports
John Canzano, a Portland-based sports writer and talk-show host, recently reported that the sales of Allen’s other assets are in line with the terms of his trust, which was established in the early 1990s.
Canzano said he spoke with people familiar with the terms who told him that Allen wanted the trust liquidated after his death and the money used to fund causes he was passionate about, like brain research.
“None of this is up in the air,” one source told him. “The instructions are clear: The sports franchises and everything in the trust must be sold.”
The Blazers say they’re not for sale — but the team already has one high-profile offer
Canzano reported that the Trail Blazers could be put up for auction in the next six to 18 months — and bidders are already swooping in.
The New York Times reported Thursday that Nike founder Phil Knight and Alan Smolinisky, a part-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, submitted a bid over $2 billion to buy the team. Knight and Smolinisky have had discussions with Jody Allen about a sale over the past several weeks, The Times reported.
A Blazers spokesperson confirmed that Knight made an offer, but added: “The team remains not for sale.”
The future of Allen’s two teams is unclear, but we could see major sales in the future
Knight may not be the only business mogul in the running for one of Allen’s teams — there are only so many pro sports teams and only so many people or private equity firms equipped to make a billion-dollar deal.
Canzano reported that Oracle billionaire Larry Ellison could also consider buying the Blazers. Ellison’s net worth hovers around $91 billion, and he’s tried multiple times in the past to purchase an NBA franchise.
And Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, the world’s second-richest person, has been linked to four NFL teams over the past few years. Both disgruntled team owners and diehard fans have hoped for a Bezos bailout, and multiple media reports have said Bezos is interested in team ownership, though he’s never confirmed it.
According to the Seattle Times, the Seahawks have also said that they’re not for sale and won’t be anytime in the near future. But as ESPN reported 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.”
While it’s unclear when and if these franchises will sell — and who they’ll sell to — it’s likely that rumors will only continue to swirl about the future of Allen’s teams.
Read the original article on Business Insider