A year after their initial offer of more than $2 billion rocked Rip City, but was promptly rejected, Nike co-founder Phil Knight and real estate developer Alan Smolinisky are still trying to purchase the Portland Trail Blazers.
According to a comprehensive piece from the Wall Street Journal by Rachel Bachman (subscription required), the pair reached out to Trail Blazers owner Jody Allen as recent as earlier this year about a possible sale. They said they would even raise the bid after the Phoenix Suns and the WNBA’s Mercury were purchased in December for a record price of $4 billion, but Jody Allen and Trail Blazers Vice Chair Bert Kolde continue to not budge.
So Knight and Smolinisky tried again, according to a person familiar with their plans. On numerous occasions, including earlier this year, they made it clear to Jody Allen that they still wanted to make a deal. They indicated that they realized the price had gone up and that they were willing to pay more than their initial offer, this person said. Again, Knight’s calls to Jody Allen were diverted to Kolde, and nothing came of the brief discussions.
A few months ago, Smolinisky even sent a handwritten letter to Jody Allen seeking common ground and saying he and Knight would love to discuss the Blazers with her, according to a person familiar with the matter. In response, Smolinisky received an email from someone replying on Jody Allen’s behalf with a familiar message: Paul Allen’s sports teams aren’t on the market.
After her brother, Microsoft co-founder and Blazers owner Paul Allen died from cancer in 2018, Jody Allen took over as executor of his estate with instructions to sell his assets, including the Blazers and the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks. However, Jody Allen and Vulcan Inc., the umbrella corporation set up to manage the Allen family’s businesses, continue to state there’s no timetable declaring when the assets must be sold. Jody Allen said selling an estate as complex and vast as Paul Allen’s can take up to 20 years.
Despite Jody Allen’s patience to sell the franchise, the article pointed out a major turning point for the Blazers is coming, not just in regards to Damian Lillard’s future. The franchise’s future in Portland is not a certainty, and ownership will play a pivotal role in upcoming decisions that may determine where the Blazers call home.
In October 2025, the original 30-year ground lease expires for the Blazers’ arena, the Moda Center. In other cities, looming lease expirations have spurred negotiations over who would pay for costly renovations. The Moda Center is one of the older NBA arenas that hasn’t undergone a comprehensive overhaul.
[Jason] Hunke, the Vulcan spokesman, said that a renewal of the lease and arena improvements such as the structural and seat upgrades happening this summer and other needed improvements are a “high priority.”
Knight and Smolinisky’s acquisition of the Blazers would ease Blazers fans’ worries about a possible relocation. The bid from the duo is aimed to keep the franchise in Knight’s hometown of Portland. Smolinisky, who also is a minority owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, hopes to redevelop the area around the Moda Center. Knight recently donated $400 million to help rebuild Portland’s Albina area.
In several separate phone conversations with Kolde, people familiar with the situation say, Smolinisky and Knight laid out their vision to keep the Blazers in Portland forever. They would invest in the team to make it a championship contender. They would boost the fan experience off the court by improving the area around the arena, according to people familiar with their thinking.
But Jody Allen continues to put a firm block on the duo’s plans. In the piece, she stated her commitment to the franchise and didn’t sound like somebody ready to give up control any time soon.
“My brother Paul and I talked about the [Blazers and Seahawks] often and I regularly advised him and team leaders on various matters,” she wrote in an email to The Wall Street Journal. “I led development of both Moda Center and Lumen Field, and have attended games for many years.
...As chair, my focus is building championship teams and managing the franchises for the long-term. Today, I work regularly with the GMs, presidents, and coaches on significant sports, business, and organization decisions and have final say on strategic moves such as key hires, trades, and player extensions.”
You can read the whole piece here (subscription required).