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