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Volume 25 No. 134

Franchises

Allen's purchase of the Seahawks in '97 helped keep the team from moving to Southern California
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Seahawks and Trail Blazers Owner Paul Allen died yesterday at the age of 65 from complications of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and his death "raises questions about what happens to the two sports franchises" he owns, according to Bob Condotta of the SEATTLE TIMES. Allen had "no spouse and no children to leave anything to," and it is unclear whether his sister, First & Goal Vice Chair Jody Allen, "wants to take over ownership of the Seahawks and Trail Blazers, or one or both" (SEATTLE TIMES, 10/16). In Portland, John Canzano reports Jody Allen is a "Seahawks fan and is a good bet to emerge as a more visible presence" with the organization. However, a source said that she does "not enjoy the Trail Blazers." Nobody who knows her "thinks she'd be interested in wanting to run an NBA franchise on a daily basis." Canzano notes Trail Blazers Vice Chair Bert Kolde would "likely have interest in ownership" of the NBA team though. Trail Blazers President & CEO Chris McGowan, who serves as the team's alternate governor, will “continue to represent the Blazers at all ownership meetings” following Allen’s death. There is "likely a contingency plan already in play" (Portland OREGONIAN, 10/16). NFL Network's Steve Wyche reported there likely will not be "anything that’s necessarily going to disrupt the business operations of the Seahawks or other sports business interests because we knew this was coming" ("NFL Total Access," NFL Network, 10/15).

A HOOPS FANATIC: In Portland, Joe Freeman in a front-page piece notes the Trail Blazers were one of Allen's "greatest passions." He bought the Blazers in '88 and was "intimately involved in the team's operations until his death." Allen was a "self-confessed basketball fanatic" and he "regularly evaluated college prospects in the walk up to the yearly NBA draft and relished being in the Blazers' war room on draft day." Allen's tenure was "rife with controversy but mostly successful." While he was the owner, the team "qualified for the playoffs 23 times" and made the Finals twice. Allen was "vital to the success" of the team, as his "wealth and willingness to spend" allowed GMs to add resources and talent (Portland OREGONIAN, 10/16). THE ATHLETIC's Jason Quick notes working under Allen was "both a blessing and a curse" for front-office execs. He was "famously generous and aggressive in his pursuits of talent, but also notoriously exhausting with his need for information." Former Blazers President & GM Bob Whitsitt said, "At his core, I really believe his greatest passion was the Blazers and the NBA. He just loved basketball" (THEATHLETIC.com, 10/16). In N.Y., Steve Lohr in a front-page piece notes Allen "promised to keep the franchise" in Portland when he bought the team despite it being "one of the smallest" markets in the NBA. He often "flew to games from Seattle and sat courtside with his mother" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/16). NBA TV's Greg Anthony, who played three seasons for the Blazers, said, "Not only did he spare no expense monetarily, but really spared no expense in terms of his commitment to the franchise and to the city of Portland.” Anthony: “We have to appreciate all that he has meant, not just for the Blazers, but for the NBA as a whole. If you think about the growth our league has experienced since he has become a part of the league, it’s pretty monumental” (“NBA GameTime,” NBA TV, 10/16). 

FOR LOVE AND BASKETBALL: The OREGONIAN's Canzano writes Allen "owned the Blazers because he loved basketball." Canzano: "I never got the impression that the Vulcans were much interested in more than the bottom line when it came to the NBA operation" (Portland OREGONIAN, 10/16). NBCSPORTSNORTHWEST.com's Dwight Jaynes wrote there is "no question he loved basketball -- and the Trail Blazers." During the early days of his ownership, when he was "perhaps closer to the team than he was in recent years," he would invite players, including Kiki Vandeweghe and Clyde Drexler, to his home in Seattle "for games of H-O-R-S-E." The team "even practiced at the full-size gym he had in his home." Allen was the "gold standard of owners -- enough of a fan to care about winning (and spending untold millions to do so) yet not being the interfering kind of owner who wants to grab headlines and make decisions his basketball people are being paid to make" (NBCSPORTSNORTHWEST.com, 10/15). FORBES.com's Mike Tokitonotes Allen "got a championship ring when the Seahawks won" Super Bowl XLVIII in '14, but many Portland-area observers "suspect that he would have gotten greater satisfaction if the Blazers got one for him." Tokito: "He was just that big a fan" (FORBES.com, 10/16).

SAVING THE SEAHAWKS: The TIMES' Condotta notes it could be argued that "saving the Seahawks from leaving Seattle might have resonated with as many people as Allen touched through his long list of accomplishments" (SEATTLE TIMES, 10/16). In Seattle, Rachel Lerman in a front-page piece notes Allen bought the Seahawks in '97, "saving them from moving" to L.A. as planned by then-Owner Ken Behring. Allen was "persuaded by other leaders in the community to buy the Seahawks to keep the team from leaving." He did so "on one condition: that a public vote be held -- which he helped finance -- to approve a public-private partnership for a new football stadium." That resulted in CenturyLink Field, which opened in '02. Allen was "regarded as a fairly hands-off owner of the Seahawks, present for a few games a year and at celebrations for major championships, but generally handled the budget and let the coaches handle the football" (SEATTLE TIMES, 10/16). NBC's Peter King suggested CenturyLink Field should be named after Allen to indicate "how important he was to making sure that franchise in Seattle stayed in Seattle long after he died" ("PFT," NBCSN, 10/16). ESPN's Matt Hasselbeck, who played 10 seasons with the Seahawks, said Allen saved the team "out of his civic love for the city of Seattle." Hasselbeck: "He has done a lot of other things, but strictly in football, what he has meant to my life and to the people there is really incredible” (“Monday Night Countdown,” ESPN, 10/15). 

DEEP TIES TO SEATTLE: In Seattle, Larry Stone in a front-page piece notes it should "never be forgotten that without Allen's initially reluctant (and fraught) entree to purchase the Seahawks, there are no Beastquakes, no Legion of Boom, no deafening 12s and no Super Bowl parade." Allen "jumped in more out of civic obligation than love of football, though that love would develop as the Seahawks became wildly successful under his regime." He had the "perfect attributes of an owner -- the commitment to supply all the resources the franchise needs to compete, coupled with the willingness to let his football people do their jobs without meddling" (SEATTLE TIMES, 10/16). NFL.com's Judy Battista said, "He gave the Seahawks everything they could possibly want to be successful on the football field" ("NFL Total Access," NFL Network, 10/15). In Tacoma, Gregg Bell notes everyone inside the Seahawks organization "truly admired Allen for what he did for the world." Allen was a "consistent, welcomed presence in locker rooms after games" (Tacoma NEWS TRIBUNE, 10/16).

INVISIBLE HAND: The AP's Tim Booth noted Allen "usually shied away from the spotlight sought by others in his same position." As an owner, he "didn't have the same visibility" as Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban nor was he an "omnipresent figure on the sidelines" like Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones (AP, 10/15). NFL Network's Wyche noted Allen was "kind of a silent partner" in his teams. Wyche: "He was the main owner, but someone you didn’t really see. But just his tentacles, his passions, his finances -- everything else were very much felt by his clubs” (“NFL Total Access,” NFL Network, 10/15). In DC, Bieler & Maske note Allen was "not visible" in NFL league operations, "very rarely attending owners' meetings." Despite that, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in a statement noted that Allen's "presence was felt within the sport" (WASHINGTON POST, 10/16). 

Browns co-Owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam are seeking to buy the Crew for civic reasons and hope to close the transaction very quickly. “We have realized that sports are really valuable to the community, and (with) the Crew maybe leaving Ohio, we just felt compelled to start the conversation,” Dee Haslam said as she arrived at the NFL owners’ meetings in N.Y. She said she contacted MLS Commissioner Don Garber within the last month and talks proceeded very quickly. Haslam said she and her husband had not decided which one of them would be in MLS meeting rooms, meaning which one is to be control owner and have a vote. “Jimmy and I will own it together, and we haven’t really discussed who would be the person in the meeting rooms,” she said. She declined to comment on terms but said to expect more developments soon. The Crew are owned by Anthony Precourt, who has been seeking to relocate the MLS team to Austin. The Haslams will likely to buy the Columbus rights from MLS and PSV will relocate its equity to Austin