Phil Knight Moves to Buy Portland Trail Blazers

He’s submitted a $2 billion bid with Alan Smolinisky, a partial owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Phil Knight, the Nike co-founder and richest man in Oregon, has a new acquisition in mind: the Portland Trail Blazers.

The New York Times and ESPN reported Thursday afternoon that Knight and Alan Smolinisky, a partial owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, have submitted a bid of more than $2 billion to purchase the team.

The Blazers are owned by the estate of the late Paul Allen. For months, sports reporters have been reading tea leaves suggesting that Allen’s trustee, his sister Jody Allen, was preparing to put the franchise on the market.

But several hurdles remain, including that team’s lease of its arena, Moda Center, is up for renewal. Several observers had speculated to WW that a new owner would want the terms of that lease renegotiated before a purchase.

Shortly after the initial reports, the Trail Blazers issued a terse statement: “An offer was made by Phil Knight. The team remains not for sale.”

That denial was largely interpreted as public negotiating, and ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski subsequently reported that Knight and Smolinisky “plan to remain aggressive” in pursuing a sale.

Buying the Blazers would tighten Knight’s grip on the Oregon sports landscape. Although he stepped down from Nike’s board in 2016, his large stake in the company and long association with it means he’ll continue to cast a shadow over the swoosh as long as he lives. Knight, 84, is a University of Oregon graduate and longtime booster whose financial largesse vaulted Ducks football and basketball into prominence and title contention. Expect to see a wider range of Blazer uniforms if his bid succeeds.