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Portland owner, one of world’s richest men, complains about NBA finances

Apr 20, 2011, 10:15 AM EDT

Paul Allen AP

For some context, Portland Trail Blazer owner Paul Allen is worth $13 billion dollars according to Forbes. That would make him the 21st richest man in the United States. Which is the kind of money you get when you are one of the founders of Microsoft. Put it this way: When it was time to interview Rich Cho for the Trail Blazers’ GM position, Allen few Cho out to do the interview on his yacht in Helsinki, where he was vacationing.

So when Paul Allen complains about the economic system in the NBA it’s not that he can’t afford it. It’s that he feels he shouldn’t have to.

And in his new biography — with the NBA parts reviewed at Blazers Edge — he complains not about the salary cap or percentage of Basketball Related Income, he complains about revenue sharing. You know, the things the players union keels bringing up.

Allen also goes into a fair bit of financial detail about the Blazers. He says he purchased the team for $65 million after making a “handshake deal” with previous owner Larry Weinberg and that he sunk “more than a half billion dollars in the franchise” prior to filing for bankruptcy to restructure the Rose Garden deal.

By the end of the chapter, Allen is advocating for a more level playing field between small market and big market teams. “We’re doing just about everything right, but we’re still losing money,” Allen writes. And, due to contract extensions for Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge, the Blazers “won’t be turning a profit anytime soon, a fact that speaks volumes about the plight of smaller-market franchises in the NBA.” He points out that the NBA has yet to address the “big market / small market discrepancy” in revenue generating potential and says that in his “perfect world” the NBA would be a place where “the most successful NBA teams wouldn’t necessarily be those with the biggest local television markets or corporate-suite bases.”

Perhaps most interestingly, Allen says that he met with NBA commissioner David Stern in New York City when the Rose Garden was in bankruptcy to discuss his options. Stern’s response: “Well, you can always sell your team.”

Allen is a private person who doesn’t talk much, but is now. He did a long sit down with the Oregonian talking about the book and more — why he had to have the team file bankruptcy to get out of the Rose Garden deal, his relationship with Clyde Drexler, why Qyntel Woods disappointed him, and even Greg Oden’s knees. It’s worth a read.

In that interview he sounds more like one of the owners who is looking for this new Collective Bargaining Agreement change the economic playing field for small market franchises. But he realizes revenue sharing has to be a part of that. And David Stern said that was discussed frankly by owners at the last Board of Governor’s meeting. But that is very, very different than having a consensus.

Allen could use that economic change and some revenue sharing cash, because he is locked into Brandon Roy for a long time now.

One other interesting line that Blazers Edge pulled out.

Allen on Michael Jordan: “I’ve seen just one other person up close who compared to him, who wanted not only to beat you but to crush you if he could. Those two stood apart for raw competitiveness: Michael Jordan and Bill Gates.”

  1. LPad - Apr 20, 2011 at 11:17 AM

    Paul Allen rights. Revenue sharing or rather the lack of revenue sharing is the problem. Without, revenue sharing the 30 teams are essentially 30 different companies operating in the same market as competitors. That’s why 22 teams can’t make a profit because they are competing against each other. Unfortunately, rather than fix this problem and adopt a revenue sharing model, the owners will lockout the players and say the cap needs to be reduced by 15 million. Even though, an extra 15 million will not make the Blazers profitable.

  2. beagle11 - Apr 20, 2011 at 2:53 PM

    This is such bull… Maybe he should get his face out of the microchips for 10 minutes and open a book on basic finance. Mr. Allen, you can not buy a penny stock and expect it to be google. You didn’t buy the Lakers or Knicks, you bought a franchise with a loyal local fan base but not much else. You should have known that the half billion you invested after buying the team wasn’t going to transform the pacific northwest into a big tv market and it wouldn’t transform the blazers brand into a Manchester United Globally. Use some of your 13 billion to hire someone to work out some simple accounting and figure out what you need to do to make your franchise profitable or sell the team to someone who will. Guess what happens to one of us when we make stupid business deals or cant stay economically viable, – our wife leaves us and we loose our home. Where is this country going when we have billionaires complaining about the very capitalism that made them rich and begging for redistribution of wealth. These owners complain about their stars leaving then complain that they’re hamstrung by a stars contract when it doesn’t work out. No one wants accountability for mistakes. They want the cash cows that are the big markets to be the white out on the text that is their mistake. And we as fans will suffer for billionaires arguing with millionaires when we have no off season following one the all time great nba seasons.

    • pdxpanther - Apr 20, 2011 at 6:28 PM

      So you’re saying if you don’t own the Lakers, Knicks, Celtics or Bulls, you shouldn’t even bother? This is why the NBA is going into a lockout next year, because of David Stern’s arrogance and lack of ability to run a billion dollar company.

  3. philtration - Apr 20, 2011 at 9:06 PM

    Revenue sharing is all fine and good but you bought a team in Portland so don’t complain about small market teams. I am pretty sure that half of the population of Portland did not pack up and move away after you made the deal.
    Like every other sport, some teams can be contracted and it would improve the talent level.
    Not every city has to have a team and none of this is guaranteed. Does the NBA really need 30 teams when so many are losing money?
    If you don’t want to do away with teams altogether then take 10 teams and let them have their own league.
    Lower ticket prices lower payrolls and if an NBA team signs one of your players then they pay you for him.
    If they can’t run a smaller scaled league in smaller markets then they are the problem.

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