Nike founder reportedly offers $2 billion to buy Trail Blazers

The presence of Nike founder Phil Knight speaks to this potential ownership group’s desire to keep the Blazers in Portland, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Phil Knight, the co-founder of Nike, and Alan Smolinisky, a minority owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, have submitted a more than $2 billion bid and are in “serious talks” to buy the Portland Trail Blazers , ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Wednesday.

The potential ownership group submitted the written offer to the Paul G. Allen Trust, which controls the Blazers, a group led by Allen’s sister, Jody Allen. Wojnarowski said talks between the potential ownership group and the trust are “ongoing”.

“Phil Knight’s presence on the proposed ownership groups speaks to his desire to keep the Blazers in Portland and to advance the franchise there,” Wojnarowski said tweeted.

The New York Times’ Benjamin Mullin and Oregonian’s Aaron Fentress corroborated Wojnarowski’s report.

Columnist John Canzano reported Wednesday that the potential ownership group could also include “billionaire Kirk Brown, who is said to be coveting a WNBA expansion team that would also end up in Portland.”

The Athletic’s Chantel Jennings and Mike Vorkunov reported Wednesday that the WNBA hopes to identify an expansion city or two later this year and has narrowed its list to 10 or 12 cities. Athletic’s report included Portland as one of six potential markets that could be on the WNBA’s expansion list.

Forbes put the October 2021 valuation for the Blazers at $2.05 billion.

in one Tweet later on WednesdayWojnarowski said the Blazers confirmed Knight’s offer in a statement, but said the team is not for sale.

Canzano reported last month that “insiders expect the Blazers to be positioned for auction in the next 6-18 months.” He also reported that an acting team president of an NBA franchise told him it was “unlikely” that NBA owners would allow the Trail Blazers to relocate after a potential sale.

In Wednesday’s report, Canzano said a source told him Knight “had met with NBA commissioner Adam Silver numerous times over the past few weeks and conferred with Larry Miller, former president of the Blazers, about the franchise.” Canzano also reported there was “possibly an in-person conversation” with Allen.

Other ownership groups that Canzano says may be interested in pursuing the Blazers include Oracle Corporation co-founder Larry Ellison, who has tried unsuccessfully to buy NBA teams in the past; philanthropist MacKenzie Scott, ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos; and executive and businesswoman Laurene Powell-Jobs, widow of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.

While Knight and Smolinisky’s deal is far from cemented, it certainly caused quite a stir both in Portland and the sports world at large.

“If there was any real cheering for the Rip City faithful here during the offseason, that’s as big as it gets,” said Michael Lewellen, vice president of marketing and communications at the University of Portland.

Lewellen spent seven years as vice president of Trail Blazers and Rose Quarter and also worked for Nike earlier in his career. Like other Blazers fans, Lewellen is keeping a close eye on how things are unfolding.

“It’s exciting on several fronts,” Lewellen said. “Any time there’s an opportunity for a native Oregonian to emerge as a hero, which Phil Knight certainly would be if he became the majority owner of the Trail Blazers.”

Knight, 84, was born and raised in Portland. He attended Cleveland High School and earned a business degree from the University of Oregon. He co-founded Nike in 1971 with former University of Oregon track and field coach Bill Bowerman and retired in 2016 as chairman and CEO of the retail giant. Forbes ranked Knight the 24th richest person in the world in 2020 with a net worth of $47.5 billion.

Smolinisky, 42, bought a minority stake in the Dodgers in 2019 and is a member of the franchise’s ownership group, which includes NBA legend Magic Johnson.

Watch: John Canzano’s full interview about Phil Knight’s offer

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