Phil Knight, founder of sportswear company Nike, and Alan Smolinisky, entrepreneur and co-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, have submitted an offer to buy the Portland Trail Blazers, according to people familiar with their offer.
Knight and Smolinisky’s bid to buy the Trail Blazers, an NBA team, is worth more than $2 billion and was submitted in recent weeks, the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said. because the offer was private.
An NBA spokesperson declined to comment. The Trail Blazers are owned by a trust controlled by the family of Paul Allen, a co-founder of Microsoft who died in 2018. Knight and Smolinisky had conversations with Jody Allen, Paul Allen’s sister and chairman of the trust, about a potential deal in recent weeks, the people said.
The trust also owns the Seattle Seahawks of the NFL.
How close the parties could be to an agreement was unclear. A person close to Blazers ownership and familiar with the company’s operations insisted the team was not for sale.
Paul Allen bought the Blazers in 1988 for $70 million. The value of major sports franchises has increased over the decades, in part due to the appreciation of media rights, which means the team could sell for billions. The last NBA team to trade hands, the Minnesota Timberwolves, traded with the Minnesota Lynx, a WNBA team, for $1.5 billion.
English football club Chelsea was sold for $3.1 billion last month, while the Denver Broncos are up for sale and set to fetch an NFL record price.
Jody Allen has said little about his plans for the Blazers, and Chris McGowan, who was the team’s president until November, said in September the team was not for sale. Still, it was expected that the Blazers would eventually go on sale.
Allen did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
Knight, 84, who co-founded Nike in 1964, has long been Oregon’s wealthiest person. He is no longer involved in the day-to-day operations of Nike, but remains on the company’s board of directors. Despite his deep involvement in the sport, Knight has never owned a team, and in 2011 he even told a reporter that he was specifically not interested in owning the Blazers.
Knight’s involvement might suggest there are no plans to move the Blazers from Portland, Oregon, as has sometimes been suggested over the years.
Smolinisky, a Los Angeles-based real estate entrepreneur, joined the Dodgers ownership group in 2019.
If the Blazers were sold, the new ownership group would inherit a team looking for new management after a tumultuous year. Last summer, the Blazers hired Chauncey Billups as head coach, renewing questions surrounding a sexual assault charge brought against him while a player. McGowan resigned in November. The following month, team general manager Neil Olshey was fired after a workplace misconduct investigation found unspecified violations.
On the field, the Blazers limped to a 27-55 record as star goaltender Damian Lillard played just 29 games due to injury, and his backcourt partner CJ McCollum was traded to the Pelicans from New Orleans in February. The Blazers missed the playoffs, but the McCollum-powered Pelicans made a surprising push into the playoffs, where they lost in the first round.