Phil Knight, who started Nike, and a Dodgers owner both want to buy the Portland Trail Blazers.
People who are familiar with Knight and Alan Smolinisky's proposal say that their offer is worth more than $2 billion.
People who know about their bid say that Phil Knight, one of the founders of the athletic clothing company Nike, and Alan Smolinisky, an entrepreneur and part owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, have put in a bid to buy the Portland Trail Blazers.
People who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the offer was private said that Knight and Smolinisky have made an offer to buy the Trail Blazers, an NBA team, for more than $2 billion. The offer was made in the past few weeks.
In a statement, a Blazers spokeswoman said, "Phil Knight made an offer. The team is not for sale at this time."
The Trail Blazers are owned by a trust run by Paul Allen's family. Allen was a co-founder of Microsoft and died in 2018. People say that Knight and Smolinisky have talked to Jody Allen, Paul Allen's sister and the trust's chair, about a possible deal in the past few weeks.
The Seattle Seahawks of the NFL are also owned by the trust.
It wasn't clear how close the parties might be to a deal. Someone close to the Blazers' owners who knows how the business works said that the team was not for sale.
In 1988, Paul Allen paid $70 million for the Blazers. The value of major sports teams has gone up over the years, in part because media rights have become more valuable. This means that the team could sell for billions. The last NBA team to change hands was the Minnesota Timberwolves, which were sold for $1.5 billion along with the Minnesota Lynx, a W.N.B.A. team.
Last month, the English soccer team Chelsea was sold for $3.1 billion, and the Denver Broncos are for sale and are expected to sell for an NFL record price. A trust is also selling the Broncos after Pat Bowlen, the team's longtime owner, died in 2019.
Jody Allen hasn't said much about what she wants to do with the Blazers, and the team's president until November, Chris McGowan, said in September that the team was not for sale. Still, most people knew that the Blazers would be put up for sale at some point.
Allen did not answer an email asking for his thoughts.
Knight, who is 84 years old and co-founded Nike with Bill Bowerman in 1964, has been Oregon's richest person for a long time. His net worth is in the tens of billions of dollars. He is not involved in the day-to-day running of Nike anymore, but he is still on the board of the company. Knight is very interested in sports, but he has never owned a team. In fact, he told a reporter in 2011 that he didn't want to own the Blazers.
Knight's participation could mean that there are no plans to move the Blazers out of Portland, Oregon, as has been suggested from time to time over the years. At a news conference Thursday, before Game 1 of the NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and the Boston Celtics, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said, "The team will be sold at some point, but I don't know when."
Silver said that Portland has been a great place for the NBA. "The team has been there for more than 50 years, and we'd like, and I'd like, for them to stay there as part of this process."
In 2019, Smolinisky, who runs a business in real estate in Los Angeles, joined the group of people who own the Dodgers.
We don't know much about what Paul Allen might have said about the team's future before he died. But in general, a team owner can sell it to anyone for any reason, but trustees have a stricter duty to do what is best for the trust. Three-quarters of the NBA's owners would also have to agree to the sale before it could go through.
The Blazers used to be one of the most expensive NBA teams, and Paul Allen once said that he had lost hundreds of millions of dollars running the team. But because the team cost so little to buy at first, it can be sold for a lot more than Allen's initial investment of $70 million. This shows the long-term financial benefits of owning a major professional sports team.
In the past, buying a sports team was often as much an emotional as a financial decision. Teams were often run more like family businesses with strong ties to a certain area. In the last 20 years, however, team values have gone through the roof, revenue streams like media deals and naming rights for arenas have grown in value, and wealthy investors from the tech and private equity worlds have bid on teams.
If the Blazers were sold, the new owners would take over a team that wants to go in a different direction after a rough year. Chauncey Billups was hired as the head coach of the Blazers last summer. This brought up questions about a sexual assault claim made against him when he was a player. In November, McGowan quit his job. Neil Olshey, the team's general manager, was fired the following month after an investigation into workplace misconduct found violations that could not be named.
On the court, the Blazers struggled to a 27-55 record. Star guard Damian Lillard only played in 29 games because of injuries, and his backcourt partner, CJ McCollum, was traded to the New Orleans Pelicans in February. The Blazers didn't make the playoffs, but the Pelicans surprised everyone by making it to the playoffs. They lost in the first round, though.