Canzano: It's time for the Trail Blazers to go on the auction block
Trustee Jody Allen must sell.
Paul Allen built a compound on Mercer Island. The place had a floating helicopter pad, several guest houses, an 8,000-square foot indoor basketball court, a tennis facility, a star-gazing structure, a concert hall, and a massive underground garage that included a personal gasoline pump.
Once in a while, Allen invited the Trail Blazers’ players to his house during an off day in the season. The NBA players would get a tour of the property, pick their jaws up off the floor, then try to shoot some baskets.
LaMarcus Aldridge returned from a visit to Allen’s house several years ago. I asked the star forward what the visit was like. Aldridge said, “You know how some people have a Ferrari? Well, Paul takes you to his garage and shows you his Ferrari and it’s not a regular Ferrari — it’s like a one-of-one.
“He’s got the only one like it in the world.”
Allen’s estate must really be something.
His prized art collection is now being prepared for sale by Christie’s auction house. The news broke on Thursday. Allen’s collection includes more than 150 pieces of work, some of them by Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Roy Lichtenstein. It’s estimated to be worth $1 billion and Christie’s is calling it the largest sale in history.
The Paul Cézanne’s piece that Allen owned — “La Montagne Sainte-Victoire” — is estimated at more than $100 million by itself. Everything. Must. Go. And the proceeds from the sale, as Allen directed in his will, will be used to fund his philanthropic passion projects.
So what about the Trail Blazers?
Can they go free, too?
In June, Phil Knight and Dodgers co-owner Alan Smolinisky submitted a written offer of more than $2 billion for the NBA team. It was leaked publicly. Commissioner Adam Silver told reporters the team would have to be sold at some point. Paul’s sister, Jody, is the trustee of the estate. She apparently didn’t like the mountain of pressure and pushed back with a public statement indicating neither the Seahawks nor the Blazers were sale.
Jody Allen wrote: “…estates of this size and complexity can take 10 to 20 years to wind down.”
A decade? Or two?!?
Knight is 84. Jody Allen knows that. Her remark amounted to a billionaire’s sister clapping back, didn’t it?
Allen died in 2018. His estate is being liquidated. The yachts, cars, submarine and helicopter were auctioned off. The compound he lived in had six mansions on it. It sold for $67 million. His apartment in Manhattan sold for $101 million. Now, the art work is soon-to-be going, going — gone.
Jody Allen and franchise vice chairman, Bert Kolde, don’t know how to run an NBA franchise. They love sitting courtside at games, being in the draft room, and getting to hang out with Damian Lillard a couple of times a year.
Beyond that, though, they’re lost when it comes to professional basketball.
Moda Center needs a couple hundred million dollars in renovations. The lease is ticking down. The roster will soon need a makeover. Lillard has a few good years on the court left. The long-term trajectory of the franchise demands major attention. What Trail Blazers, Inc. needs most of all is new vision and passion.
The franchise needs an owner who will love it again.
Paul Allen did. No doubt there. He didn’t always make the right decisions and his interests were scattered, as billionaires tend to be. But in the end, Allen had no wife and children. The basketball franchise was his baby.
This year’s team is going to hold its annual Media Day on Sept. 26 in Portland. We’ll get to know the players a little and hear about their hopes for the season. I’m interested to see how Lillard looks on the court after his season-ending abdominal surgery. Center, Jusuf Nurkic, is back and 23-year-old Anfernee Simons has all sorts of upside.
Training camp will be held in Santa Barbara. Chauncey Billups will be the head coach. The team will open the 2022-23 regular season on the road at Sacramento on Oct. 19 and the games will be carried on ROOT SPORTS. What I’m saying is — some things, we know. But it’s what we don’t know that is currently dragging the franchise down. The uncertainty around ownership feels as heavy as a bag of bricks.
Every time I see one of Allen’s prized assets offered for sale, my heart lifts a little. But only because it signals that we’re a tiny step closer to Portland’s basketball team getting new ownership.
So Jody, how about it?
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Trying to imagine what a $100 million apartment looks like.
There is smoke coming off of this one! Love it!