Phil Knight, founder of sportswear company Nike, and Alan Smolinisky, a businessman and part-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, made an offer to buy Portland Trail Blazers, according to people familiar with their bid.
The people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the offer is private, said Knight and Smolinisky’s bid for the Trail Blazers, the NBA team, is more than $2 billion, and was made in recent weeks.
An NBA spokesperson declined to comment. The Trail Blazers are owned by a fund controlled by the family of Paul Allen, a Microsoft co-founder who died in 2018. Knight and Smolinisky have had talks with Jody Allen, Paul Allen’s sister and the fund’s president, about the possibility of a deal in recent weeks, People said.
The fund also owns the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks.
It was not clear how close the two sides were to the agreement. A person close to the Blazers’ ownership with knowledge of the company’s operations has insisted that the team is not for sale.
Paul Allen bought the Blazers in 1988 for $70 million. Major sports franchises have skyrocketed in value over 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, sold with the Minnesota Lynx, the WNBA team, for $1.5 billion.
Chelsea Football Club was sold for $3.1 billion last month, while the Denver Broncos are up for sale and expected to fetch an NFL record price.
Jodi Allen hasn’t said much about her plans for the Blazers, and Chris McGowan, who was team boss until November, said in September that the team is not for sale. However, it was widely expected that the Blazers would eventually go on sale.
Allen did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment.
Knight, 84, who co-founded Nike in 1964, has long been the richest person in Oregon. He is no longer involved in the day-to-day operations of Nike, but has remained on the company’s board of directors. Despite his deep involvement in the sport, Knight never owned a team, and in 2011 he told a reporter that he specifically wasn’t interested in owning the Blazers.
Knight’s post may indicate that there are no plans to move the Blazers out of Portland, Oregon, as has sometimes been suggested over the years.
Smolinisky, a Los Angeles-based real estate entrepreneur, joined the Dodgers property group in 2019.
If the Blazers are sold, the new ownership group will inherit a team looking for new direction after a turbulent year. Last summer, the Blazers hired Chauncey Billups as their head coach, renewing questions surrounding the sexual assault charge against him when he was a player. McGowan resigned in November. The following month, the team’s general manager, Neil Olschi, was fired after an investigation into workplace misconduct found unspecified violations.
On the court, the Blazers set a record 27-55 as star goalkeeper Damian Lillard played just 29 games due to injuries, and his backcourt partner, CJ McCollum, was traded to the New Orleans Pelicans in February. The Blazers missed the playoffs, but the Pelicans, backed by McCollum, made a surprising boost in the playoffs, losing in the first round.