PORTLAND, Ore. — Portland Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen's death raises legitimate questions about the future of the only NBA team in the Pacific Northwest.
Since Allen purchased the Blazers for $70 million in 1988, Portland has been one of the most consistent winners in the NBA, averaging more than 45 wins per season with 23 trips to the playoffs. Allen was never shy about spending generously to ensure the team's success.
So what happens to the Blazers now that the franchise's longtime, dedicated owner has died?
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Most sports business experts agree on one thing: the Trail Blazers are likely to be sold.
Brian Berger is the host of Sports Business Radio. He has more than 20 years experience working in the world of sports business, including a six-year stint in the Trail Blazers' front office from 1992 to 1998. On Monday, he tweeted that both of Allen's teams, the Blazers and Seattle Seahawks of the NFL, will likely be sold.
"There has been a plan in place for the Blazers and Seahawks for a couple of years in the event of Paul Allen's death," he tweeted. "Paul's sister Jody does not want to own either team, according to my sources. So look for both team's to be sold by Allen's estate."
Berger said a sale does not mean the Blazers or Seahawks will move.
"I'd put [the] chances of [the Blazers] or [Seahawks] moving at less than 1 [percent]," Berger tweeted. "[The] NBA and NFL don't want to move either team from [their] passionate fan bases."
If the Blazers are sold, it won't likely happen during the season, which begins Thursday when LeBron James and the Lakers visit the Moda Center.
"This will be a matter of months before this is all sorted out," Berger told KGW on Tuesday morning. "I don't expect we'll see any changes this season. In the offseason, this will probably get sorted out."
Berger also said the NBA will be heavily involved in the process if the Trail Blazers are put up for sale.
"The NBA will get involved. They have a short list of potential buyers. The NBA has vetted those people," he said. "In the next iteration of Blazers ownership, people would like to see someone who is maybe living in Portland, who's around the offices, who shows their face a little bit more. And someone who's as innovative as Paul Allen."
Oregonian sports columnist John Canzano said Allen's holding company, Vulcan, Inc., technically owns the Trail Blazers. He said the value of the franchise — Forbes estimated the Blazers' value at $1.05 billion in 2017 — will tempt Vulcan, Inc. to consider a sale.
"They're likely to look at the Blazers and say, 'This is a billion-dollar enterprise, do we really want to run an NBA team?' I think if you can cash a billion-dollar check and you're Vulcan Inc, you look hard at that," Canzano told KGW.
Canzano agrees the Blazers are unlikely to move. He said Portland is too supportive of its team to justify relocation.
"The NBA would have a hard time selling the idea that you move a successful franchise that draws fans and has a home arena out of a viable market," Canzano said. "That's not in the cards. ... Portland is a success story in the NBA world."
Trail Blazers president and CEO Chris McGowan said at media day last month that the Blazers are in great financial shape.
"We really hit our stride four seasons ago and continue to set the bar higher every year," he said. "Financially, we've been in good shape the past four seasons."
Jared Cowley is a digital producer for KGW who writes about the Trail Blazers and other topics. He is the co-host of the 3-on-3 Blazers podcast (listen to the podcast here). You can reach him at twitter.com/jaredcowley.