Jody Allen Shuns Second Bid For Blazers From Knight, Smolinsky

Trail Blazers owner Jody Allen has been tasked with selling off most of the assets of her late brother Paul Allen and donating the money to charitable causes, but she has been reticent to offload the NBA franchise just yet.

According to Rachel Bachman of The Wall Street Journal, Nike CEO Phil Knight and Dodgers minority owner Alan Smolinsky recently made a follow-up offer to buy the franchise from Allen, a year after their initial $2 billion offer was rejected. Though Bachman does not indicate a dollar amount, she notes that Knight and Smolinsky increased their bid to keep up with the rise in sports team valuations.

“As Jody said publicly last year, the sports teams are not for sale,” Jason J. Hunke, spokesman for Paul and Jody Allen’s umbrella company Vulcan, said. Jody also inherited the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks from her brother. “That will eventually change pursuant to Paul’s wishes, but there is no preordained timeline for when that will happen. Interested parties can engage when we establish a sales process at some point in the future.”

According to Hunke, Allen’s estate team “balances an overall strategy for asset disposition with driving the best possible sales process and outcome for each individual asset and asset class. There are many different asset classes being managed to that end.” 

It appears that it could take 10-to-20 years to fully resolve the estate and establish a sale for the Trail Blazers and Seahawks, with Hunke calling that “a fair and accurate time frame.” The two clubs are worth an estimated $6.6 billion, per Bachman.

Bachman consulted with several lawyers familiar with complex estate sales. Many disputed such a lengthy window as being necessary.

“You would almost have to intentionally slow-walk it,” said Allan Cutrow, a partner at Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp LLP. “They don’t have to accept (Knight and Smolinsky’s offer), and they may not even have to negotiate it… But at the very least, you would think, barring something else in the (estate) document, that they would reach out to an investment banker and they have some duty to market this and get the best possible value.”

“[The] concept that a complex estate takes 10 to 20 years to be fully sorted out, that would be very unusual,” Andrew Mayoras, a trust and estate litigation attorney, said.

Bachman writes that the 30-year ground lease of the Trail Blazers’ current home arena, the Moda Center, will expire in 2025, and Allen could opt to leverage public funding for improvements. Bachman notes that, at least judging by language she shared in a recent email, it does not appear that Allen is looking to offload the team any time soon.

“As chair, my focus is building championship teams and managing the franchises for the long-term,” Allen wrote in an email to Bachman. “Today, I work regularly with the GMs, presidents, and coaches on significant sports, business, and organization decisions and have final say on strategic moves such as key hires, trades, and player extensions.”

Knight, worth over $40 billion, is hoping that a sale to him and Smolinsky will keep the team in Portland for the long haul.

Even while fielding oft-injured All-Star point guard Damian Lillard, the Trail Blazers have missed out on the playoffs in back-to-back years. They sport a cumulative record of 60-104 across the past two seasons. The club has the third pick in the upcoming draft, which could be used to either draft a promising young cornerstone or to acquire an impact player via trade.

View Comments (12)