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SEATTLE OPTION PLAY: ALLEN PURCHASES RIGHT TO BUY SEAHAWKS
Published April 22, 1996
Paul Allen, owner of the NBA Blazers and co-founder of Microsoft, signed a deal late Saturday giving him the "exclusive option" to buy the Seahawks from Ken Behring until July 1, 1997, according to the SEATTLE TIMES. The agreement, which "ensures" the team will play in Seattle next season, is contingent upon Behring and King County suspending lawsuits against each other. A "key factor" in whether Allen exercises his option is how much progress is made toward renovation of the Kingdome or the building of a new stadium. While Behring will continue to be majority owner, all ownership decisions will be "mutually decided." Blazers President & GM Bob Whitsitt is expected to become involved in Seahawks operations. He said they look forward to "solidifying" the team in the area "without guns to anybody's head" (Seven & Almond, SEATTLE TIMES, 4/21). DETAILS: Allen has established Football Northwest Inc. to handle all Seahawk matters (SEATTLE TIMES, 4/21). The WASHINGTON POST's Leonard Shapiro reports the option was for 25% of the total value of $200M, a record price for an NFL franchise. If the Kingdome is not improved to his liking, Allen has the right to sell his share back to Behring (WASHINGTON POST, 4/21). But Rebecca Boren of the SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER reports Allen is paying "at least 10% of the eventual sales price"-- estimated to be at $180M or more. Boren calls the Kingdome "a big, white, concrete barrier sitting smack" in Allen's way (SEATTLE P-I, 4/21). LEAGUE REAX: The deal is also contingent upon the NFL changing cross-ownership rules. Currently, NFL rules also prohibit minority interests from being involved in the day-to-day operations. For now, though, the NFL seems "thrilled" with the possibility of the Seahawks staying in Seattle. A league statement congratulated both Allen and Behring on the deal (T.J. Simers, L.A. TIMES, 4/21). NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and the Finance Committee have recently said they want to update league rules allowing for cross-ownership within an area -- and because the Blazers are a Northwest team, Allen would fit the guidelines being considered (Clayton & Foster, Tacoma NEWS TRIBUNE, 4/20). LOCAL REAX: King County Exec Gary Locke: "We will have to find out the terms of the agreement, but we are very willing to look at the Kingdome issues" (Seven & Almond, SEATTLE TIMES, 4/21). TIMES columnist Steve Kelly calls Allen a "comic book superhero coming to Seattle's rescue and saving football. ... Throw him a parade. Raise a banner in his honor. Buy some season tickets, for crying out loud" (SEATTLE TIMES, 4/21). ESPN's Chris Mortensen: "The Seattle community needs to build a stadium. The NFL is going to pressure them or else that will go back to Behring and they may end up in L.A." ("NFL Draft '96," 4/21). Seahawk President David Behring apologized to the community and the club's staff for the "turmoil, anger, frustration" of the "last couple months" (SEATTLE TIMES, 4/21). O.C. LEFT IN LURCH: The option purchase by Allen means Orange County's bid to lure the Seahawks to Anaheim is "extinguished." Though a Seahawks-to-Anaheim move now seems unlikely, Orange County Football boosters will continue to press for an NFL team (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 4/21).